PPP hails SC ruling in fake accounts case, govt denounces 'premature' celebration

Updated January 07, 2019

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"The JIT had recommended to send the case to NAB for investigation and this is what the court did," says Shahzad Akbar on Monday. —PID
"The JIT had recommended to send the case to NAB for investigation and this is what the court did," says Shahzad Akbar on Monday. —PID

Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar on Monday said it was too early for the PPP to be celebrating the Supreme Court's orders to remove the names of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from the exit control list.

The names of PPP leaders were placed on the ECL on federal cabinet's orders following a report submitted by the joint investigation team's (JIT) report probing the fake bank accounts case against former president Asif Ali Zardari his sister Faryal Talpur and other accomplices.

The Supreme Court earlier in the day, while hearing the fake accounts case, had ordered the removal of both the PPP leaders' names while directing that the case be forwarded to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The court asked the anti-corruption watchdog to wrap up its investigation within two months.

Shortly after, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, spokesperson of Bilawal Bhutto, issued a statement hailing the court's decision, saying that the top court's directives had blasted the JIT's credibility.

The order has proven that the JIT was politicised and biased, he said, adding that "the apex court has declared that names of Bilawal Bhutto and CM Murad were mentioned in the JIT with malicious intent".

He added that "Ahtasab Akbar [Shahzad Akbar] was responsible for the mess". "Today's court order has supported the viewpoint of the PPP," he said.

The PPP leader demanded an apology from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) over placing the names of Bilawal and the chief minister on the exit control list. The senator also demanded the resignation of those who were demanding the Sindh chief minister to resign.

Akbar and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, during their joint press conference in Islamabad in the afternoon, however, said that the PPP should refrain from celebrating the court's decision.

Akbar reiterated that those accused would be held accountable. He said that the apex court's orders resemble the first verdict on Panama Papers case, recalling how the PML-N supporters had 'prematurely' celebrated a momentary relief at the time by distributing sweets.

Read: How Pakistan's Panama Papers probe unfolded

Akbar said that the court's direction to NAB to wrap up its investigation within two months means that those found guilty of corruption will have two options: either to face a reference or ask for a plea bargain.

Akbar also warned the PPP leadership that taking out some of the name from the JIT report does not mean that they will not have to answer for their wrongdoing.

He claimed that not even a single individual named in the JIT report had challenged a single point of the report and had simple branded it "baseless".

"The SC did not accept even a single objection [of their]; all objections were rejected," Akbar said.

The adviser said that as per his understanding, the JIT will continue to exist and assist NAB in probing the case.

Akbar also discussed the specific case of Farooq H Naek, claiming that the former law minister had received funds through a fake account.

He said that Naek did not respond to any annexure of the report but will have to respond to NAB's queries. "They will have to tell how Bahria Town grew in Karachi at such a pace [and without any check and balance] and how state's land was handed over to the blue-eyed folks," said Akbar.

"They will have to respond specifically to the points raised in the JIT report; how the loan was acquired based on a collateral that was sugar, when the sugar did not even exist; how the Omni group grew from four to 90 companies within 10 years; and how loans worth millions of rupees were advanced to fake companies.

"Under what deal did a number of beneficiaries travel for free on Omni aviation's flights for free?" he asked as he pointed fingers at former Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, his successor Murad Ali Shah, Zardari's sister Faryal Talpur, Sharjeel Memon and others.

"I want to ask them what benefit they were giving to that airline because even a bus driver would not let me have a free ride. How did you manage to take flights on private jets?"

The information minister, meanwhile, reiterated the government's demand seeking the Sindh chief minister's resignation.

Chaudhry said that "90 per cent of the thugs were behind bars" and assured that "the remaining 10 per cent" will also join them shortly.

The minister, however, made it clear that the government had not initiated any of the cases currently plaguing the opposition parties and had merely granted a freehand to investigative agencies and investigators.