LAHORE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif leaves the NAB office on Sunday.—Aun Jafri/White Star
LAHORE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif leaves the NAB office on Sunday.—Aun Jafri/White Star

LAHORE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday met his younger brother PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif at the National Accountability Bureau’s Lahore office where he is in NAB custody in connection with the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal housing project scam.

According to a source, the NAB administration granted ‘special permission’ to Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz’s wife Nusrat and sons Hamza and Salman to see the opposition leader in the National Assembly on their request. The meeting lasted about an hour. “The visiting Sharif family members brought meal for Shahbaz Sharif and they had dinner together,” he said.

A group of PML-N workers also gathered outside the Thokar Niaz Baig office of NAB and chanted slogans against the arrest of their leader.

PML-N president’s son calls former chief minister’s arrest a joke

Earlier, Hamza and Salman briefed Nawaz Sharif at his Jati Umra residence about the case against their father.

NAB had on Saturday obtained Shahbaz Sharif’s physical remand for 10 days in the scam in which he is accused of cancelling the contract of successful bidder M/s Chaudhry Latif & Sons and instead obliging M/s Lahore Casa Developers (JV) — a proxy group of M/s Paragon City (Pvt) Limited (which is stated to be developed by former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique) — causing millions of rupees of losses to the exchequer.

“It’s a joke that a man (Shahbaz) who saved this country’s billions of rupees in various projects has been arrested. NAB summoned him (on Friday) in Saaf Pani Company case but arrested him in the Ashiyana housing case,” Hamza told reporters after their meeting with the elder Sharif.

He said the contractor whose contract had been cancelled in the Ashiyana housing project had entered into a plea bargain with NAB to secure his release, but he was still wanted by the Anti-Corruption Establishment. “The (Prime Minister) Imran Khan’s government has awarded this corrupt contractor the contract of metro bus in Peshawar. Even the Peshawar High Court chief justice had inquired about this, asking as to whom the government had awarded the contract of Rs71bn metro bus project which could not be completed as yet,” Hamza said, adding that Mr Khan’s bias had been exposed as he got Khadim-i-Aala (Shahbaz Sharif) arrested for saving billions of rupees of people in various development projects.

“The people of Pakistan will take Imran Niazi to task for his bias against Punjab Speed (Shahbaz) as this matter will not be settled here,” he warned.

In reply to a question about the meeting with Nawaz Sharif, he said: “Nawaz Sharif is presiding over a meeting of PML-N’s Central Executive Committee on Monday (today) in Model Town to finalise a strategy (over the arrest of Shahbaz Sharif).”

Ashiyana housing project case

Giving details about the briefing on the Ashiyana housing project case, former Shahbaz administration spokesperson Malik Mohammad Ahmad Khan told Dawn that NAB’s allegation against Shahbaz Sharif about ‘misuse of authority’ regarding cancellation of the contract of successful bidder M/s Chaudhry Latif & Sons had no legal basis. “The Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) board of directors had awarded the contract to Latif & Sons and then chief minister Shahbaz was legally empowered to cancel the contract on findings that illegality had been committed in the process. Mr Sharif was only answerable to the Punjab Assembly legally in this regard,” he said.

According to the PML-N, the Shahbaz government had in 2012 transferred 3,100 kanals of land to the PLDC to build two-storey houses on 2-3 marla plots just like the Ashiyana project in Attari Saroba. For the purpose of land development, a Rs1.5bn tender was floated by the PLDC that was won by Chaudhry Latif & Sons for the construction of houses at a cost of Rs19bn.

“On receiving a complaint about bidding process, Shahbaz Sharif through then secretary implementation to the CM Fawad Hassan Fawad ordered an inquiry under then finance secretary of Punjab Tariq Bajwa. The committee noticed certain irregularities and recommended that the case may be sent to the Chief Minister Inspection team. On the committee’s recommendations, Shahbaz Sharif ordered the anti-corruption department to hold the inquiry. As the PLDC management found out that inquiry was initiated against the irregularities in bidding process, it cancelled the contract awarded (to Latif & Sons),” the PML-N said.

In September 2013, it said, the matter was taken to court and both parties (PLDC and Latif & Sons) amicably reached a settlement and the contract was terminated.

The PML-N said: “No money from the public exchequer was ever due or paid to the private developer. No government land was transferred to or consumed by the developer. The only expenditure incurred on the project was for preparation of feasibility and clearance of land. NAB has failed to make out any case other than project failure, claiming regular project expenditure as loss to the public exchequer.”

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2018

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