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LAHORE: PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari believes the joint investigation team (JIT) members had deliberately leaked its damning report on fake bank accounts, mainly to mislead the Supreme Court in the case.

“The leaking of the JIT report is a violation of the court’s order as it’s purpose was to mislead the apex court, people and the media,” Mr Bilawal said while addressing lawyers through video link at a function organised by the People’s Lawyers Forum in the Lahore High Court Bar in connection with the birth anniversary of PPP founder Z A Bhutto here on Saturday.

He was to address them in person but he could not come to Lahore because of weather conditions.

Mr Bilawal expressed his wonder at placing of the names of Sindh’s incumbent and former chief ministers, Murad Ali Shah and Qaim Ali Shah, on the Exit Control List. “Their names were placed on ECL despite the fact that there was no corruption allegation against them and they were even not called for investigation,” he added.

The JIT report (on fake bank accounts) had stated that former president Asif Ali Zardari and others “grabbed” state-run entities in Sindh through corrupt tactics. It alleged the Omni Group (allegedly owned by Mr Zardari and his close aides) acquired four state-run entities — Thatta Cement Factory, Thatta Sugar Mills, Naudero Sugar Mills and Dadu Sugar Mills — in Sindh at throwaway prices.

Following this report, the government placed the names of 172 persons, including Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Murad Ali Shah and Faryal Talpur, on the ECL in fake bank accounts and money laundering cases, along with real estate tycoon Malik Riaz.

However, following the Supreme Court’s snub the federal government announced reviewing its decision of placing the names of 172 persons on the ECL.

Mr Bilawal further said that on the pretext of accountability the government was targeting the opposition.

“The PPP cannot be intimidated through such tactics. We will see when the accountability of those who have come to power through a stolen mandate begins,” he said, adding that in the Asghar Khan case requisites of justice were not met.

Bilawal vowed to continue the mission of ZAB, saying come what may the PPP would not backtrack on its struggle for upholding the Constitution and supremacy of democracy.

The lawyers forum also passed a resolution, saying: “The country stands periled in the most critical phase of economic and political instability and the people of Pakistan are being plunged into the abyss of poverty.”

The forum expressed serious concern at spiraling prices and huge devaluation of currency, inflation and fiscal deficit.

Early in the day the PPP protested against the Punjab government for removing its welcoming banners from The Mall.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2019