LAHORE: Notwithstanding its earlier decision, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Monday withdrew the summons issued to PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif’s wife and two daughters, and decided to send them a questionnaire with regard to the investigation into money laundering and assets beyond means cases against him and his sons Hamza and Salman.

NAB changed its decision after its chief, retired justice Javed Iqbal, held a meeting with Lahore Director General Shahzad Saleem here at the provincial headquarters of the anti-graft watchdog.

Justice Iqbal declared that from now on he would personally monitor all investigations against the Sharif family.

The bureau’s decision on Saturday to summon the Shahbaz Sharif’s family women — his wife Nusrat, daughters Rabia Imran and Javaria Ali — for this week generated a lot of criticism from the opposition parties that termed the move “an insult to women”. However, this was not the first time that NAB had summoned women in a case. It is a usual practice of the bureau to call women related to suspects in any investigation. As to why NAB reversed its decision within 48 hours, the sources believe that it is because of pressure from ‘certain quarters’.

NAB decides to send them questionnaire in money laundering and assets beyond means cases; anti-graft body’s chief to monitor probe against family

“The NAB chief had to come to Lahore and reverse its decision to summon Shahbaz’s wife and daughters...this is unusual,” a source told Dawn.

Another source had other reasons to explain, saying NAB reversed its decision after coming to know that Shahbaz’s wife Nusrat and daughter Rabia Imran were abroad — probably in London — and it would be of no use to stick to its summons as like Salman, both women were not likely to return to the country (till the investigation was over). On the other hand, he said, NAB would receive flak for ‘summoning’ women of the Shahbaz family. “In this backdrop NAB decided to cancel it summons,” he maintained.

When asked about any pressure to withdraw the summons, one NAB official said: “There was no such pressure. We withdrew all three summons dispatched to Nustrat Shahbaz, Rabia Imran, Javaria Ali following the direction of the NAB chairman.”

There were also reports that after a ‘hue and cry’ of the Sharif family and the PPP leaders and the chances that the opposition could go in ‘aggressive mode’ to get political mileage from the issue, some top leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf opposed involving the Shahbaz family women in the NAB probe.

When this correspondent sought Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry’s comment about `any instruction’ to NAB by the government, he said: “The government has got nothing to do with this matter. NAB is an independent institution and the government doesn’t interfere in its working.”

According to NAB, Justice Javed Iqbal was given a briefing on mega corruption cases especially against the Sharif family members during his visit to the Lahore office on Monday. It said: “The NAB chairman has decided that he will personally monitor all the cases related to the Sharif family. He also ordered cancellation of the summons to Nusrat Shahbaz, Rabia Imran and Javaria Ali and sending them questionnaire related to money laundering and income beyond means investigation (against Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza Shahbaz and Salman Shahbaz).”

NAB said it respected women and sanctity of the four walls. “NAB believes in accountability for all. It has no association with any political party. It is an independent institution, cares for no pressure and only follows merit and law,” Javed Iqbal said and added that NAB was only loyal to the state of Pakistan.

According to NAB’s initial investigation, Shahbaz Sharif and sons Hamza and Salman had accumulated assets to the tune of Rs3 billion which were disproportionate to their known sources of income. “The suspects in order to justify the acquisition of assets have mentioned foreign remittances worth Rs1.3bn.”

Meanwhile, NAB grilled Hamza Shahbaz, the opposition leader in Punjab Assembly, at its office for more than two hours in the Ramzan Sugar Mills corruption case. He was summoned again for Tuesday (today) in the money laundering and assets beyond means investigation.

In its questionnaire, NAB asked the three women to provide details of all foreign remittances claimed/received by them. Sources of funds for acquisition and increase in assets during 2008-17, details/sources of year-wise investment (equity and director’s loan) in all the companies and businesses have also been sought.

They have also been asked about details of gifts and salaries received since 2008, including the particulars of persons from/to whom gifts were received and given and the companies from where salaries were withdrawn.

NAB also asked Nusrat Shahbaz to provide details of the sources of funds for acquiring houses — 69-H and 87-H, Model Town, Lahore and Nishat Lodge, Donga Gali, Murree.

Shahbaz Sharif, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, has been in London for the last one week where he said he had a medical check-up and met his grandchildren. Although he claimed before his departure to return soon, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb gave no specific date of his return when Dawn contacted her in this respect.

Salman and Shahbaz’s son-in-law Imran Ali Yousuf, who is wanted in the Saaf Pani Company scam, are also in the UK.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2019