LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) spokesman Fawad Chaudhry has alleged that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, in connivance with the chiefs of the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), is running South Asia’s biggest money laundering network.

Addressing a press conference on Friday, he said nine companies owned by ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s family, including three in the British Virgin Islands, were running in a loss of 10 million pounds. Still, he added, these companies had bought 29 top London properties with money being pumped in by the Capital Free Zone Establishment (FZE) in Dubai which, he claimed, was owned by Mr Sharif.

“Kulsoom Nawaz is vice chairperson of the FZE company,” he claimed about Mr Sharif’s wife and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N’s (PML-N) candidate in the by-election for a National Assembly seat in Lahore that fell vacant after his disqualification by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case.

Stating that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was investigating the finance minister as well as NBP President Ahmad Saeed and SECP’s former chief Zafar Hijazi, Mr Chaudhry accused Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of allowing corrupt people to head top institutions.

“Mr Abbasi is trying to prove himself a puppet prime minister to prolong his stay in the office of prime minister,” he said, asking why he was supporting “South Asia’s biggest money laundering network”.

The PTI spokesman said Mr Sharif’s decision to “avoid” NAB investigations was tantamount to ridiculing and even distrusting state institutions. “The deposed prime minister and his family’s members must appear before NAB, otherwise, their avoidance to answer questions will be considered as their confession,” he asserted.

Spokesman claims PM allowing allegedly corrupt people to head top institutions

Mr Chaudhry said Mr Sharif had claimed in the National Assembly that his family had got 12 million dirhams by selling the Gulf Steel Mills and its machinery had been sent to the Azizia Steel Mills in Saudi Arabia.

He claimed that the United Arab Emirates government had told the Pakistan government in writing that no 12m-dirham deal had been made. He claimed that the Gulf Steel machinery was not sent to the Azizia Mills because it had allegedly been imported from Israel and other countries.

He said Mr Sharif’s son Husain Nawaz had been asked how he had set up the Azizia Mills, but he had no answer.

He said Mr Nawaz had claimed that the Azizia Mills had been sold for 91m riyals, but could not show any banking transactions. He also asked why money was not paid to other partners of the mill.

In view of non-availability of money trails of these steel mills and other companies in Britain and the British Virgin Islands, the total transactions of the Sharif family could be calculated at Rs300 billion, the spokesman claimed.

Since the Sharif family’s all companies at home and abroad were running in loss, this huge money ostensibly belonged to the poor masses of Pakistan, he said.

Asserting that it was now the duty of state institutions as well as the PTI to bring this money back to Pakistan, he stressed that the Supreme Court’s supervisory judge, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, should ensure that the apex court’s order was implemented in its true spirit. He said five references should be filed within six weeks and decided within six months.

Referring to the coming by-election for NA-120, the PTI spokesman said the PML-N candidate had not even bothered to appear before the returning officer to file her nomination papers.

He said those living in palatial houses could not bring about change aimed at the welfare of the poor. He said the Sharif brothers had pushed the poor people against the wall during their long rule.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2017