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Shahbaz Sharif, others indicted in Ashiyana Housing scam case

Updated February 18, 2019

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Opposition leader rejects the charges and opts to challenge the allegations against him. — File
Opposition leader rejects the charges and opts to challenge the allegations against him. — File

An accountability court in Lahore on Monday indicted Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif in the Ashiyana Housing reference.

Judge Syed Najamul Hassan framed the charges against Shahbaz Sharif. The opposition leader rejected the charges and decided to contest the allegations in the court.

The Punjab government's controversial Ashiyana housing projects were launched in 2010. Shahbaz Sharif is accused of ordering the cancellation of a contract given to successful bidder Chaudhry Latif and Sons for the low-cost housing scheme, which led to the subsequent award of the contract to Lahore Casa Developers, a proxy group of Paragon City Private Limited, resulting in a loss of Rs193 million.

He is also accused of directing the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) to assign the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal project to the Lahore Development Authority, which awarded the contract to Lahore Casa developers, causing a loss of Rs715m and the ultimate failure of the project.

NAB also accused Shahbaz of directing the PLDC to award the consultancy services contract for the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal project to Engineering Consultancy Services Punjab for Rs192m, while the actual cost was supposed to be Rs35m as quoted by Nespak, a renowned engineering consultancy.

The court today framed charges also against Fawad Hassan Fawad, the former principal secretary to the prime minister, and others accused in the case. According to the bureau, Fawad, while serving as implementation secretary to the Punjab chief minister in the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal Housing project, had misused his authority.

NAB had also arrested Ahad Khan Cheema, former director general of the Lahore Development Authority, in the case. Other people arrested in the case include Bilal Qidwani, Imtiaz Haider, Shahid Shafiq, Sardar Saeed and Arif Butt.

During today's hearing, Shahbaz Sharif on his turn said that NAB framed him in a baseless reference. He said that he never misused his authority; instead, he safeguarded the national wealth.

"The nation will see that it is the most fake case of the history. NAB is a liar," the opposition leader slammed the watchdog. The judge responded that the court proceedings would reveal if the case was fake or otherwise.

The PML-N chief said that he was ill and needed bed rest. "Even at the moment, I am wearing a belt due to pain," he added. NAB prosecutor Waris Ali Janjua opposed a plea by Shahbaz Sharif's counsel to delay the indictment for a week.