SHAHBAZ Sharif speaks at a press conference after appearing before NAB.—APP
SHAHBAZ Sharif speaks at a press conference after appearing before NAB.—APP

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif appeared before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Monday, and was grilled for well over an hour for his alleged misuse of authority in the award of a contract for a low-cost housing scheme.

To dodge the media waiting outside the NAB regional headquarters since the morning, the chief minister used a private vehicle without any official protocol to enter NAB’s offices at Thoker Niaz Beg on the outskirts of the city in the afternoon.

The journalists could not spot his exit until he reached the PML-N’s secretariat in Model Town where he held a press conference to vent out his anger at what he described as NAB’s trumped-up charges with mala fide intent.

He regretted that none of his political rivals, some among them facing charges of corruption worth billions of rupees, were being investigated.

Punjab CM demands accountability of political rivals

The Punjab chief minister announced that he would introduce a new accountability mechanism in the country after the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was voted to power in next elections.

“Though NAB’s notice regar­ding Aashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme was based on ill-intentions I appeared before NAB authorities for the sake of rule of law, ignoring the available legal exemption of submitting replies in writing instead of joining the probe in person,” he said.

He argued that the notice was based on mala fide intentions as it was repeatedly screened by the electronic media, to the obvious benefit of his rivals.

“The NAB chairman should ask his subordinates not to become collaborators of the PTI and PPP. The duplicity in the application of the accountability law will not be accepted,” said the Punjab chief minister.

While rejecting the grounds for the summons as being false, Mr Sharif regretted that his political rivals, Pakistan Peoples Party leader Asif Zardari in particular, had never been summoned by NAB even though they had been accused of corruption worth billions of rupees in Nandipur, Islamabad Safe City, Chiniot mines and other projects.

Elaborating on the “real facts”, the chief minister claimed that his intervention had, in fact, saved billions of rupees of the public exchequer and vowed to “continue repeatedly committing the offence come what may”.

He asked why public limited companies working in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh were being spared from the NAB’s investigation, while only Punjab was being targeted in this respect.

“If it’s aimed at bullying me, and my political and bureaucratic teams, then those following the policy are mistaken. My neck may be severed but it cannot be bent.”

Promising to join the NAB proceedings whenever required, he announced that he would approach the “public court” if those involved in corruption worth billions of rupees were not summoned by NAB.

He told a reporter that if he was voted to power in the upcoming polls, he would, after becoming prime minister, introduce a new accountability law that would usher in an era of across-the-board accountability.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2018

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