Recovery of funds stashed abroad to take time: minister

Updated November 12, 2018

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Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry speaks in National Assembly. — File
Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry speaks in National Assembly. — File

LAHORE: Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Sunday since Pakistan could not investigate and recover “corruption money stashed abroad” all on its own, the recoveries would take time.

“The money looted by the Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari families belongs to the country and needs to be recovered,” he said at a press conference.

Reacting to the PML-N and PPP leaders’ recent comments that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s leaders were “begging” in different countries, Mr Chaudhry said Prime Minister Imran Khan would not have needed to go abroad to get money had the Sharif and Zardari families returned “83 per cent of Pakistan’s Rs30 trillion loan liability”.

The information minister said the country’s total debt in 2006 was just Rs6tr, but the PPP and PML-N governments pushed it up to Rs30tr.

He said Imran Khan had no personal agenda to carry forward as he only desired to create a social welfare state, while the opposition’s sole agenda was to promote its own interests.

Referring to the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly, he said it was strange that the younger brother (Shahbaz Sharif) wanted to supervise the audit of his elder brother’s (Nawaz Sharif) “corruption” during the past two years.

Says PM will unveil plan on Nov 29 offering relief for the poor

“It is the PTI government’s right to audit the previous government’s bungling in projects executed with public money during 2016-18. The PML-N may take over when the PTI government’s projects are presented before the committee,” he asserted.

Rejecting the PML-N’s demand for appointing Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif as PAC chairman, the minister said the chairmanship could be given to Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari or anyone else in the opposition if it wanted to retain the position. “Will Shahbaz Sharif hold PAC meetings in Kot Lakhpat jail,” he wondered.

The PML-N central spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb immediately responded to Fahad Chaudhry’ remarks, saying the “compulsive thieves” had locked down the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission for five years to hide their “massive corruption” and now they were doing everything to lock down the PAC with the same motive.

“Imran Khan has never been held accountable, he has been let go in cases in which he himself admitted wrongdoings. This is why he has become a repeat offender and wants to hold the PAC hostage,” she said.

Ms Aurangzeb said Fawad Chaudhry needed to get tutored (by her) on the operations and functions of the PAC as he was speaking with little knowledge, that was dangerous, and, as a result, ended up in embarrassing himself.

“Mr Chaudhry should clarify before every press conference whether he is speaking as NAB spokesperson or information minister,” she advised the information minister.

Despite being in power, she said, Imran Khan and his “cronies are obsessed and possessed with the fear” of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif.

“The prime minister should address the nation to explain “billions of rupees corruption” in the Peshawar Metro and Billion Tree Tsunami projects and “proven corruption” of the (previous) KP government.

In reply to a question about the prime minister’s plan of speaking in detail about corruption in Pakistan, Fawad Chaudhry said the premier’s talk on the subject had been delayed because investigators believed that this was not an appropriate time to speak on the subject. “The government is consulting legal minds on the subject.”

In reply to another question about validity of the NAB director-general’s degree, the minister said the degree had never been challenged during the past two decades, adding that the official had recovered Rs4.5 billion in KP.

“The powerful and filthy rich people scream when law starts laying its hands on them and here begins the test of a government,” he said.

“If the PTI does not speak about corruption and catch big fish, it will be betraying its voters,” Mr Chaudhry said and added that the wheels of justice would turn soon and crush every corrupt whether weak or powerful. “The PTI will not go for any muk-muka (deal) with the opposition,” he added.

Apparently referring to the recent three-day protest by a reliogio-political organisation, the minister said a group (of people) was trying to reap political benefits under the cover of religion.

But, he said, the government itself and genuine religious segments in society could take the ownership of true religious narrative.

He said PM Imran Khan wanted to take care of the 2.5 million children studying in seminaries as well as offer due rights to the minorities by establishing a welfare state o the model of Madina’s.

He said the prime minister would unveil the PTI government’s 100-day plan on Nov 29 offering relief to the salaries class as well as the poor.

To a question about government advertisements to print and electronic media, the information minister said the government was the media’s client like any other client and would give advertisements in keeping with its budget.

“The PTI government will not use media advertisements as bribe like (today’s) opposition (parties) did when they were in power,” he said.

The minister said the government would support journalists and that every registered journalist would be given Rs450,000 health card facility.

In a media talk following the information minister’s press conference, Marriyum Aurangzeb said Fawad Chaudhry was a “political mercenary”, and in his desperation to “please his paymaster”, had become more loyal than the king.

“The people of Pakistan have not forgotten the Chaudhry’s conflicting statements while serving different political parties,” she commented and asked him to explain when the PTI government would provide people five million houses, 10 million jobs as well as tell the truth about Imran Khan’s sister Aleema Khan’s properties abroad worth billions of rupees.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2018