LAHORE: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar on Thursday said Shahbaz Sharif had failed to respond to allegations levelled by a UK-based newspaper that the PML-N president was involved in embezzlement of funds meant for people affected by the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.

“What The Mail on Sunday story and local agencies record has proven is a simple fact: the entire Shahbaz family is involved in money laundering and corruption. Shahbaz should have responded to specific allegation how over 200 telegraphic transfers (TTs) amounting to millions of dollars took place — transferring fortunes in the family coffer,” he said.

He asked: “Why Erra [Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority] paid over Rs600 million to Ali Imran (son-in-law of Shahbaz Sharif) when he was neither a contractor nor sub-contractor with the authority? How Ikram Navid, one of the accused-turned-approver, kept shifting jobs and paying to Ali Imran millions of rupees. Shahbaz Sharif rightly claimed that he was the one who got Ikram Navid arrested. But he stopped short of telling why co-accused (Ali Imran) was spared?”

Mr Akbar said that most of properties made in Pakistan were bought through the money sent from abroad: first finding its way to foreign land and then returning as remittances.

Talking about plea bargain, he said since that option was available in the NAB law, anybody could avail it.

PML-N leader asks Imran not to defame Pakistan in revenge

“If anyone (referring to Sharifs) wants to payback illegal money, we have no objection. One can apply to NAB and if court approves such a deal, no problem. However, the government would not offer an NRO to anyone,” he said.

Special Assistant to the PM on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said: “A pale-looking Shahbaz Sharif addressing post-Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s arrest press conference only shows that the rule of law is taking its course.” She said Mr Abbasi neither got a pre-arrest bail nor availed any other legal option to avoid the arrest. He was, rather, challenging NAB to pick him up.

“NAB has only fulfilled his wish. Why is the opposition now making a noise over his arrest? It should rather let Abbasi face the court of law, where he can prove his innocence and get freedom. After the arrest, the right forum to present merits and demerits of the case is court, not the media. So, go to the court instead of addressing press conferences,” she advised.

Dr Awan said she failed to understand as to why Imran Khan’s name was dragged in these arrests? All the institutions are independent and doing their own duty: they do not seek clearance from the prime minister nor does the PM issue such instructions.

“Those accused of wrongdoings, whether from the PML-N or PTI, would have to face the music. After all, Aleem Khan (central PTI leader) faced all charges in NAB and Sibtain Khan (a sitting member of the Punjab cabinet) is still in NAB custody. It only shows the rule of law, not political victimisation,” she said

Earlier, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif at a press conference asked Prime Minister Khan not to defame Pakistan in order to take revenge on the Sharif family.

Announcing that he would take PM Khan, Mr Akbar and the British newspaper to a court of law in London, the PML-N president said if a decision came against him he would quit politics and tender an apology to the masses.

“I am going to London to sue Imran Khan, Shahzad Akbar and the British newspaper for publishing a baseless story aimed at defaming me and Pakistan,” he said, adding that the whole world knew the judicial system of Britain where Imran Khan Niazi could not run away. “Niazi earlier levelled three bribe allegations against me and I took him to courts here, but he is still running away to face the courts,” he pointed out.

He claimed that earlier the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Imran Khan had defamed China and Turkey. “NAB asked me that it had traced my property in China and Turkey. I told it to bring in evidence and I will apologise but it failed. Now they are defaming Britain. I ask them not to defame Pakistan in a bid to fix me,” he said.

Last week, a report in The Mail on Sunday alleged that Mr Sharif during his tenure as Punjab chief minister had embezzled a grant from the United Kingdom meant for relief activities after the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.

Mr Sharif said it was the “most malicious allegation” made at the behest of Imran Khan. “It is a case like the one framed against Rana Sanaullah. I ask Niazi to get me arrested if these allegations were true. The British organisation has already rejected this report as baseless.”

Mr Sharif recalled how he had got arrested an officer of Erra Ikram Navid for his corruption and also got his property attached of which NAB was now taking credit.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2019