ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan has alleged that the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has assigned the task of selecting its candidates for the upcoming general elections to the Intelligence Bureau (IB), through its “hand-picked” director general Aftab Sultan.
Speaking at a news conference at his Banigala residence on Saturday, the PTI chief accused former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif of using bureaucrats in the Centre and the province as their “front men”, and to protect their alleged corruption.
“It is utterly shameful how the bureaucracy has chosen to protest against accountability,” Mr Khan said, referring to a protest by some in Punjab’s bureaucracy over the recent arrest of Ahad Cheema, former director general of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), in a housing scheme scam.
The arrest of Mr Cheema, a grade 20 officer of the Public Administration Service, by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had reportedly drawn sharp protest from certain quarters in the provincial bureaucracy and many senior PML-N leaders and in the Punjab Assembly. The treasury benches condemned NAB’s action whereas the opposition parties had urged the bureaucracy to distance itself from the ongoing tussle between the PML-N and the state institutions.
PTI chief may contest next election from Karachi, says spokesman
At a news conference in Islamabad on Friday, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Zardari had claimed that a rebellion was afoot in the Punjab’s bureaucracy after the arrest of Mr Cheema.
Mr Khan alleged that while the elder Sharif was using the bureaucracy for corruption at the Centre, his younger brother was doing that at the provincial level. There was a nexus between the protesting bureaucrats and the Sharif family as the latter was now petrified of what Ahad Cheema might say to save himself in NAB custody, Mr Khan said.
“These people who are sitting on top, all their dirty work is done by the bureaucrats at the bottom,” he stated, adding that the apex court had rightly stated that all institutions were being controlled.
The PTI chief regretted that banners in support of Ahad Cheema had been put up on the streets in Lahore, making it seem like he was a leader like Nelson Mandela. He alleged that Mr Cheema was Shahbaz Sharif’s front man and was looking after projects worth billions of rupees. “There are corruption cases worth Rs14bn against Ahad Cheema in just one project,” he said, adding that “bureaucracy’s godfather is Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad”.
Mr Khan said the IB head Aftab Sultan was also a member of the Sharifs’ “gang”, which was why he had been given an extension of service for the third time. He alleged that the IB DG had been told by the PML-N leadership to “minutely observe” which PML-N candidate could win their constituencies.
The PTI chief said the PML-N had ruined all institutions by choosing their own people to head them. He mentioned a report compiled by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which stated that leaders of third world countries like Pakistan earned kickbacks through mega projects. He asked NAB to take notice of the corruption in Metro Bus Projects in Lahore, Multan and Islamabad.
In nine years, he said, Shahbaz Sharif had spent Rs9 trillion and now he was not ready to present himself for accountability. “The nation cannot be fooled anymore, playing victim card and mantra of Mujhe Kyun Nikala will soon be in the past,” he said.
Replying to a question, Mr Khan claimed that he had evidence, including details of bank accounts, to prove the corruption of Ahad Cheema, and added that they would hand those over to NAB.
Defending the decision of his party-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to provide massive funds to Darul Uloom Haqqania of Maulana Samiul Haq, Mr Khan said the money had been provided to bring 2.5 million poor students in religious seminaries to the mainstream.
He said those children had been put into the seminaries by the parents because they could not afford to pay their fees in other educational institutions.
Mr Khan criticised those who were objecting to the KP government’s decision to provide a grant to Darul Uloom Haqqania, saying that those studying at the seminaries could not be ignored as they were also the children of the nation. Mr Khan, once again, vowed to bring people out on the streets to show solidarity with courts and NAB.
Separately, PTI information secretary Fawad Chaudhry, in a statement, “condemned” the reports of placing the NAB chairman under a board through an ordinance. He said the PTI would resist every attempt to amend NAB laws to facilitate Ahad Cheema, the Sharifs and other “criminals”.
He said the PTI had geared itself up for the next general elections and its parliamentary board will soon start working to select candidates.
Responding to a question, Mr Chaudhry said while the party had not yet decided the constituencies the PTI chief would contest the election from, the latter might consider running for a National Assembly seat from Karachi. He added that the party was seriously considering the option.
Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2018