ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Sunday arrested retired Captain Mohammad Safdar, who had gone into hiding on Friday after having been convicted along with his father-in-law Nawaz Sharif and spouse Maryam Nawaz in the Avenfield properties reference, in a dramatic episode amid resistance by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz workers on Murree Road.
The retired captain will be sent to the Adiyala jail on Monday (today) after being produced in the same accountability court of Islamabad which had declared him guilty in the London flats reference and awarded him one year imprisonment.
NAB also decided to take action against those who had provided ‘illegal’ shelter to the convict, kept him away from its team during a rally taken out by the PML-N workers in Rawalpindi where he later surrendered himself.
The drama of the arrest continued for four hours during which the NAB team remained unable to take him into custody as police contingents acted as silent spectators.
The former MNA appeared in Rawalpindi leading a sizeable political rally a few days before the other two convicts — former premier Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz — are set to arrive from London.
Nawaz, Maryam to land in Lahore instead of Islamabad on Friday
Sources in the PML-N, however, said the party had planned to accord a historic welcome to their supreme leader in Islamabad, but later it decided that they should land in Lahore on Friday mainly for two reasons. Firstly, they said, the flight of Etihad Airways would land at Islamabad at 8am and it would be difficult for the party to gather its workers early in the morning. Secondly, they added, Lahore was a stronghold of the PML-N.
Earlier, NAB’s four investigation teams raided the residences of Captain Safdar in Abbottabad, Mansehra and Haripur but could not find him.
In the meantime, he announced through a video message sent to the PML-N workers that he had decided to surrender outside the election office of a party candidate in front of Gordon College in Rawalpindi.
Although Captain Safdar appeared in a sizeable political rally near historical Liaquat Bagh, he did not surrender to NAB officers Mehboob Alam (director) and Adnan Dogar (assistant director). When the officers made attempts to arrest him, his supporters in the rally resisted. The officers were then told that the ex-MNA would surrender at Committee Chowk.
However, Captain Safdar in a black double-cabin vehicle of Senator Chaudhry Tanvir Khan went to the election office of PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi near 6th Road where he finally surrendered. He was accompanied by former MNAs Shakeel Awan and Malik Ibrar.
Normally Sunday remains calm in Rawalpindi. But after the video message was sent to the party workers and supporters through the PML-N media cell regarding his surrender, the charged workers received him near Liaquat Bagh at about 4pm and they started marching towards the federal capital, where NAB Rawalpindi’s regional headquarters is situated. They chanted slogans “Dekho dekho kon aya sher aya sher aya”, “Vote ko izaat do”, “Qadam barhao Nawaz Sharif hum tumharay saath hain” and “Aik wari faer sher sher”.
When the rally reached old Sarafa Bazaar, the NAB team tried to arrest Captain Safdar, but the workers retaliated again. Union council vice chairman Maqbool Ahmed of the PML-N and a few other workers received injuries during the pushing and shoving. The workers did not allow police to come close to the vehicle in which the former lawmaker was sitting. The NAB officers were requested to travel in the same vehicle to which they agreed. As the rally ended at the election office of Hanif Abbasi, the NAB team finally arrested him.
They later drove him to the NAB Rawalpindi office in the same vehicle. The officials also arranged medical check-up of the convict and kept him in a NAB’s lockup.
A senior PML-N leader told Dawn that Mr Safdar arrived in the city late Saturday night and stayed at the house of Chaudhry Tanveer. The party planned the rally a day earlier but did not disclose that Mr Safdar would join it, he said. “It is the part of political move to mobilise the party workers and the PML-N successfully achieved the target. The party workers came out of their houses and tried to gain sympathy of the people of the garrison city where the election campaign of PML-N was comparatively slow,” he explained.
‘Convict posing himself pious’
NAB reacted strongly to the PML-N show that caused a four-hour delay in the convict’s arrest. “He is proved guilty, convicted and corrupt person who is posing himself as a pious person, which is contrary to his claim as he has proven assets beyond known sources of income which come under the purview of corruption under NAB Ordinance 1999,” said an official handout issued by the bureau.
NAB also asked the media not to provide live coverage to the convict of the Avenfield properties reference. “Media is requested to kindly do not air his [Safdar’s] live speeches which are against the law and code of conduct of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and do not try to glorify him; if media will give him live coverage and glorify him, then the illegal acts of convicted persons and culture of lawlessness will be encouraged in Pakistan,” it added.
The handout said NAB would also initiate legal proceedings against those who provided illegal shelter to the convict and tried to create hurdles in his arrest. NAB also asked Pemra to provide footage of the rally to ascertain the identity of the culprits.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan criticised Captain Safdar for posing himself as a hero.
The PTI wrote to Pemra and the Election Commission of Pakistan, asking them to take notice of the live coverage of the convicts.
While talking to reporters in London, Maryam Nawaz said: “He [her husband] is a soldier of Nawaz Sharif and has courted arrest like a tiger.” She said they’re returning home for democracy. “As it’s defining moment in the struggle for respect of ballot, I and Nawaz Sharif are returning to Pakistan, becoming the first leaders who come home to serve jail terms.”
Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2018