LAHORE: PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif’s troubles seem to have mounted further as one after another suspects who are in the National Accountability Bureau’s custody are providing “incriminating evidence” against the former chief minister of Punjab in different scams, sources told Dawn on Thursday.

After the statement of Mr Fawad Hasan Fawad, former principal secretary to ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, in which he named Shahbaz Sharif for awarding contract to a “favourite firm” in Rs14bn Ashiana Housing project on his (Shahbaz’s) orders, former chief executive officer (CEO) of the Punjab Saaf Pani Company (PSPC) Wasim Ajmal has also reportedly passed the buck to the PML-N president, accusing him of making him (Mr Ajmal) a scapegoat to save his son-in-law Imran Ali Yousaf in the PSPC scam.

“It is likely that Mr Ajmal becomes an approver against Shahbaz Sharif,” a source said.

He said Mr Fawad had also provided “incriminating evidence” against the ex-chief minister in the Ashiana Housing corruption case, making it difficult for him (Mr Sharif) to defend himself before a combined investigation team of the NAB Lahore on August 20.

Shahbaz’s blue-eyed officers, Lahore Development Authority former director general Mr Ahad Cheema and Mr Fawad Hasan Fawad have been in the NAB custody in the Ashiana Housing case, while both Waseem Ajmal and PML-N leader and former PSPC chairman, Raja Qamarul Islam, are being interrogated in PSPC case.

Shahbaz Sharif is also facing charges in the Punjab Power Development Company (PPDC) scam and he is summoned on Aug 20 by NAB in this case.

Imran Ali Yousaf had fled to London some three months ago to escape arrest by NAB.

The source said Mr Yousaf left the country after Shahbaz Sharif gave no assurance to him that he could help avert his arrest in both PSPC and PPDC cases.

Mr Yousaf is accused of receiving Rs120m from the PPDC’s account that was transferred to his (Mr Yousaf’s) bank account. He is also accused of getting Mr Ikram Naveed appointed as PPDC CEO, who allegedly committed massive corruption and is currently in NAB custody. Similarly, Mr Yousaf is also accused of renting out a floor of a plaza he owns in Gulberg, Lahore, to the PSPC on exorbitant rate (Rs28 million a year).

“Waseem Ajmal has alleged that Shahbaz Sharif had got issued a ‘clean chit’ to his son-in-law (Yousaf) from the Anti-Corruption Establishment and others, including him (Ajmal), were declared guilty,” the source said.

The NAB had also written to the interior ministry to get Mr Yousaf’s red warrants issued and have him arrested through Interpol. “The ministry has deferred the matter till formation of new government,” he said, adding it would be prerogative of the new government whether to take up the matter with Interpol or not.

NAB had also questioned Shahbaz’ son, Hamza, in the PSPC case, for his alleged role in the award of certain contracts and making appointments in violation of rules, since he is not a member of the company’s board of directors. NAB has not yet cleared Mr Hamza in this case.

Sources said Mr Fawad admitted before the NAB investigators that being implementation secretary to then chief minister Shahbaz Sharif in 2013, he pressurised the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) CEO to cancel the contract of M/S Latif and Sons and award it to M/S Lahore Casa Developers at behest of his boss (Shahbaz).

According to a NAB notice, Shahbaz Sharif is accused of directing PLDC to assign the project to the LDA, resulting in award of contract to M/s Lahore Casa Developers (JV), thus causing a loss of Rs715 million to the exchequer and ultimately failure of the project. The ex-CM had allegedly also directed the PLDC to award consultancy services of the project to M/s Engineering Consultancy Services Punjab for Rs192 million, whereas the actual cost was Rs35 million, as quoted by Nespak.

Shahbaz Sharif often accuses NAB of ‘selective’ accountability. A PML-N leader from his camp did not confirm to Dawn whether Shahbaz would appear before NAB on Aug 20 or not. Earlier, he had skipped the NAB hearing citing ‘election engagements’. At present he is running from pillar to post to form government of his party in Punjab.

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2018

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