ISLAMABAD: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif declared on Saturday that only elected civilian governments, not military dictators, had bowed before the courts.
Emerging after his four-hour questioning session with the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing allegations of money laundering against the Sharif family, the younger Sharif said this was the fifth time their family had to undergo “ruthless” accountability.
“A day before yesterday was a unique one in the 70-year history of Pakistan; an elected prime minister appeared before a JIT. Today, as a servant of Punjab, I also appeared before the investigation team,” he said, claiming that this was a historic day.
Punjab CM claims JIT conducting fifth round of ‘ruthless accountability’ of Sharif family
He said the JIT had summoned him as a witness and by complying with the notice, he had upheld the cause of the rule of law.
Without naming former president retired General Pervez Musharraf, who toppled the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government in October 1999, CM Sharif said that one could easily differentiate between how military dictators treated the law and how civilian government had dealt with the courts.
“I suffer from chronic backache, but would never use it as an excuse to avoid appearing before the JIT, nor did I go to the institute of cardiology or to London for medical checkup,” the Punjab CM said, taking a jibe at the former military ruler.
His remarks were a reference to how Gen Musharraf, when a special court seized with his high treason case summoned him for indictment, had gone to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in January 2014 after complaining of cardiac distress.
The military ruler was in hospital for quite a long time and eventually went abroad for a “medical checkup” and did not return.
Recollecting bitter memories of the past, CM Sharif said that he was handcuffed along with his brother after the 1999 military coup when Gen Musharraf re-initiated the process of the Sharif family’s ruthless accountability.
He said that this process began when the Pakistan Peoples Party government nationalised his father’s Ittefaq Foundaries on January 2, 1972.
The second phase of the family’s accountability started in 1988 by another PPP government, when their family businesses become the target of political rivals.
In 1993-96, a third round of accountability led to closure of their factories and in 1999, Gen Musharraf started the fourth round. “This JIT is the fifth time my family is being held accountable,” he claimed.
“I humbly presented my stance to the JIT and responded to all their questions,” the Punjab CM told reporters outside the Federal Judicial Academy, where the JIT is based.
He claimed there wasn’t a single penny’s worth of corruption allegations in all the projects initiated by the PML-N government, such as the metro bus and Orange Line train, power projects and road infrastructure development schemes.
On the other hand, he said, those criticising the government had loans worth billions written off and purchased expensive properties in the UK and Canada.
“They are also behind multi-billion rupee corruption scandals of National Insurance Corporation Limited (NICL), Employees Old-Age Benefit Institution (EOBI), rental power projects (RPPs), and cost rises of billions in the of Nandipur and Neelum-Jhelum power projects.
The Punjab CM reached the FJA without official protocol, like Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before him. But security was slightly more relaxed than it was on June 15, when his brother appeared before the JIT.
He was accompanied by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and his son, Hamza Shahbaz.
Marriyum Aurangzeb, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry and local PML-N leaders also come to show solidarity with Mr Sharif. Police, however, stopped them about 500 yards from the FJA, where they stayed until the CM’s departure.
Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2017