KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah on Monday demanded that the federal government “restrain” the National Accountability Bureau and other federal institutions from “victimising” Pakistan Peoples Party leaders including former minister Sharjeel Inam Memon and officers of the provincial government.

NAB had a political agenda as it had unleashed a media trial of PPP leaders, said the chief minister in what appeared to be a reaction to the last week disclosure by a NAB prosecutor about an inquiry into the embezzlement of millions of rupees allegedly by former minister Sharjeel Memon.

“Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has expressed deep concern over harassment to central deputy secretary information of the PPP and member of the Sindh Assembly Sharjeel Inam Memon and other leaders of the party by National Accountability Bureau,” said a statement issued by CM House.

The renewed wave of anger from the chief minister against NAB and the federal government came after the Centre and Sindh had reached an understanding over the much publicised special powers to the Rangers in Karachi.

He said the media trial was aimed at tarnishing “their political image. The Sindh Assembly member Sharjeel Memon is also a senior and active member of the party. He has been performing his party responsibilities at the central level.”

“Mr Memon resigned from the Sindh cabinet because of his personal reasons and went abroad on sanctioned leave. But during this period his name was put on the Exit Control List (ECL) which is sheer dishonesty and victimisation,” the chief minister said.

According to the NAB prosecutor, the bureau’s inquiry was initiated against Mr Memon to determine his involvement in corruption in the information department. The counsel for Mr Memon, however, had clearly stated before the Sindh High Court that the former minister feared arrest by the NAB authorities on the basis of graft inquiries and a bar imposed on his travelling abroad if and when he returned to the country.

Though the Sindh High Court had put off a separate petition filed by Mr Memon challenging the placement of his name on the ECL and had yet to schedule its hearing, the chief minister had put the same demand before Islamabad and warned against any “victimisation” of his party leaders and government officials on the pretext of NAB inquiries.

“The chief minister has demanded that the federal government restrain NAB from taking action against the Sindh government officers and party leaders. The cases against Sharjeel Inam Memon and other party leaders be withdrawn and his name from the ECL be also removed immediately,” added the CM House statement.

Talking to a private news channel after the issuance of the statement, Mr Memon said NAB had failed to find a single piece of evidence against him of corruption and he felt confident about coming out of “all attempts of victimisation”.

“The people who know me and my family are aware that I was financially strong much before I joined politics. These reports and inquiries have nothing to do with corruption but are in fact politically-motivated attempts to malign characters and damage reputations,” he said.

“Even reports of my relations with Uzair Baloch [alleged leader of a criminal gang in Lyari] are not true. I have never had any direct relation with Uzair. I met him four times and [former Sindh home minister] Dr Zulfikar Mirza accompanied me every time I met him.”

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2016