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Shehbaz questions accountability after Abbasi's arrest by NAB

Updated July 18, 2019

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PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, accompanied by party leaders Ayaz Sadiq and Ahsan Iqbal, addresses a press conference on Thursday.— DawnNewsTV
PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, accompanied by party leaders Ayaz Sadiq and Ahsan Iqbal, addresses a press conference on Thursday.— DawnNewsTV

PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif — flanked by party leaders Ayaz Sadiq, Ahsan Iqbal and Marriyum Aurangzeb — on Thursday addressed a press conference following the arrest of former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Shehbaz, who himself is facing cases by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), condemned Abbasi's arrest by the bureau a few hours earlier.

"If there is accountability, where is it? This is the worst revenge against the PML-N in the garb of accountability," said Shehbaz.

"Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was arrested in a crude manner; when he asked for [arrest] warrants, the NAB officials just stared at each others' faces," claimed Sharif. "NAB DG came himself and showed a WhatsApp message. When Khaqan asked for a warrant signed by the NAB chairman, then they got a photocopy."

The former prime minister was arrested by a 12-member NAB team in a multi-billion-rupee case related to the award of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract. He was on his way to attend a press conference, accompanied by Iqbal and Aurangzeb, when he was arrested on the Thokar Niaz Baig interchange.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has ruined the country's economy in the past 10 months and the arrest was an attempt to distract the nation from the government's performance, the former chief minister alleged.

He said that Abbasi had a "central role" in ensuring that power generated from RLNG plants in Haveli Bahadur Shah, Bhikki and Balloki was supplied to Karachi.

"Apart from serving the nation, is supporting Nawaz Sharif the crime of Abbasi?"

Shehbaz added: "Opposition has to bear the brunt of this government's incapability. Most of the people who are in NAB jails are PML-N members."

"Imran Khan has lost his sleep over this, he has not been able to anything for the country and he wants to ruin everything."

The opposition leader lamented rupee devaluation that had led to an increase in prices of commodities accused the prime minister of "defaming the country all over the world".

"I want to tell the NAB chairman that this is not the first time PML-N is going through this. Everyone knows what happened to us during the Musharraf era," the PML-N president said. "We were forced into exile, Musharraf turned our house into an old people's house. But we are still alive, we will remain here and continue to serve the people."

Allegations of embezzling 'disgusting'

Shehbaz once again rejected claims made in a news report published in The Mail, that accused him of embezzling money from funds provided by Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) for 2005 earthquake victims. The PML-N claims that the news report in The Mail was published on the premier's behest.

"In 2005, when the earthquake hit Pakistan's northern areas, I was in exile in the UK," he said. "This is such a disgusting allegation that I stole money from a fund for earthquake victims and gave it to my children."

"If I was guilty of this charge, why did you have to arrest me in Ashiana or [Ramzan Sugar Mills] case? You could have arrested me in this one."

Referring to accusations that money was laundered for his family by then chairman of Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (Erra) Ikram Naveed, Shehbaz said: Erra is a federal institution, not provincial."

He further said that he had removed Naveed for corruption in 2011.

"DFID gave 500 million pounds over the 10 years when I was Punjab's chief minister. Ask me anything you want to ask about that money, but they have not talked about that."

"You (Prime Minister Imran) have defamed me, why did you have to defame the country?"