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NAB prepares reference against Shahbaz, Fawad in Ashiana case

Updated December 18, 2018

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Leader of the Opposition in NA, Shahbaz Sharif, is currently under judicial custody. — File
Leader of the Opposition in NA, Shahbaz Sharif, is currently under judicial custody. — File

LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lahore has prepared a reference against the PML-N president, Shahbaz Sharif and former principal secretary to ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif Fawad Hasan Fawad, in the Rs14 billion Ashiana-i-Iqbal housing project case and sent it to the anti-graft watchdog chairman retired justice Javed Iqbal for approval.

“The main charge against Shahbaz Sharif is misuse of authority, while Mr Fawad is accused of making assets worth Rs740 million illegally, besides misuse of authority,” an official source told Dawn on Monday.

He said a relative of Mr Fawad had contacted NAB for plea bargain, but so far Mr Fawad had not himself consented for it. “Mr Fawad will have to deposit his liability (Rs740m) to the national exchequer as he made the amount illegally,” he said.

“The reference will be filed in the accountability court after the approval of the executive board of the bureau under chairman,” he said.

With regard to investigation against Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif for allegedly possessing assets beyond his known sources of income, the source said: “The bureau is investigating some benami accounts in this respect.”

In the Ashiana housing case, Shahbaz is accused of misuse of authority for canceling the award of the project’s contract to successful bidder M/s Chaudhry Latif and Sons and instead obliging M/s Lahore Casa Developers (JV) -- a proxy group of M/s Paragon City (Pvt) Limited (which is allegedly developed by former railways minister Khwaja Saad Rafique) -- thus causing millions of rupees losses to the exchequer.

Mr Shahbaz also allegedly directed the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) to assign the project to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), resulting in award of contract to the Lahore Casa Developers (JV). This allegedly caused Rs715 million loss to the exchequer and ultimately failed the project.

“Shahbaz is also accused of directing the PLDC to award consultancy services of the project to M/s Engineering Consultancy Services Punjab for Rs192m, whereas the actual cost was Rs35m as quoted by Nespak.”

On the other hand, Mr Fawad could not provide money trail of his assets. Mr Fawad, being implementation secretary to then chief minister Shahbaz Sharif in 2013 is also accused of misusing his authority.

“Mr Fawad had called the project director of Ashiana housing project to his office and warned him of consequences. Under the garb of allegations of wrongdoings in the award of the contract to M/ s Latif and Sons, he forced him (PD) to cancel it,” said the source. Mr Fawad had reportedly confessed (to NAB) that the contract of the successful bidder was cancelled at Shahbaz’s behest.

Former LDA director general Ahad Khan Cheema is also facing NAB references in Ashiana housing case and was accused of making assets (worth Rs660 million).

All the three suspects – Shahbaz, Fawad and Cheema --- are on judicial remand. Shahbaz Sharif is currently attending the National Assembly session in Islamabad after the speaker issued his production order.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2018

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