PML-N calls for 'immediate arrest' of Hassaan Niazi, resumption of PIC operations

Updated December 13, 2019

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PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Friday. — AP/File
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Friday. — AP/File

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb on Friday called for the "immediate arrest" of Prime Minister Imran Khan's nephew Hassaan Niazi for his "involvement in the attack" by lawyers on Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) in Lahore earlier this week.

Aurangzeb also urged the Punjab government to allow PIC — which has been sealed — to resume its operations.

"They said that the police raided the residence of Imran Khan's nephew, but he was not found. There is no case registered against Hassaan Niazi despite his clear involvement in the incident. He must be arrested immediately. The incident must be thoroughly probed and the hospital unsealed," said Aurangzeb.

"People from all over the country would go to that hospital and now because of this incompetent, unqualified government, it lies sealed."

Read | 'No concessions': Punjab govt vows strict action against lawyers, others involved in Lahore protest

The PML-N leader lashed out at the PTI-led government for "seeming helpless" in the aftermath of the attack.

"We witnessed a complete collapse of the Punjab government. Those who used to challenge the writ of the state in 2014, who smashed open the heads of police officers at D-Chowk, we ask them: Where was the Punjab government that day? They were told (ahead of the protest) that the lawyers were walking to the hospital."

Niazi, on the day of the attack, had taken to Twitter to "condemn [his] own self", while reacting to footage of an eyewitness describing the harassment of patients that took place, including his sister whose "[oxygen] mask was taken off and she died".

"After watching this clip I feel ashamed of myself. This is murder!!! My support and protest was limited to initiation of legal action against the concerned doctors. I only stand for peaceful protests," he wrote.

"It’s [a] sad day and I condemn my own self for supporting this protest now."

'Lies', discrepancies

The PML-N leader said that the government had "lied" in its written response to a set of questions submitted to the parliament.

"When they were asked what amount of money was recovered through the Asset Recovery Unit and what expenses were incurred in the exercise, Ali Mohammad said in response: Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif should be asked regarding the amount of corruption they have done.

"If Shehbaz Sharif has engaged in corruption, the proof must be submitted to the court and the same should have been mentioned in the written response submitted in parliament," said Aurangzeb.

She said that instead, what has been submitted in writing, shows that no recoveries were made and millions were spent on the unit.

"We demand an apology for having called us robbers and thieves when in the government's response there isn't even a single rupee's worth of recovery," said the PML-N leader.

"They claim that PTV and Radio Pakistan have earned profits. The response shows that the expenditures outweigh the income. The response submitted by them is a lie [...] they lied in parliament," said Aurangzeb.

The PML-N leader said that when the government is asked why inflation has tripled and growth halved, they present "the same old tired argument" of corruption by Nawaz and Shehbaz.

"The Supreme Court has already ruled that Shehbaz Sharif prevented corruption in Punjab and played the role of a good guy," she said, referring to the Supreme Court's observations during a hearing in the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme case.

In further criticism, Aurangzeb said: "In the largest province of the country today, there is a complete breakdown of governance and administration.

"There is no justification for them (PTI) to rule."

'Will keep asking questions on people's behalf'

PML-N leader Khurram Dastagir also addressed the press briefing. He, too, censured the government for the dire situation that had arisen owing to the closure of PIC and called for the arrest of those involved in the attack on the hospital.

"This kind of lawlessness, extremism, and torture has emanated from D-Chowk," he said, in reference to the 2014 sit-in by the PTI.

In pictures: Day of terror, violence as lawyers storm Lahore cardiac hospital

He said that despite having a government in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, not a single cardiac institute had been established by the PTI where the patients could have been shifted.

"That's because the accountability commission in KP has been all locked up for a few years now."

Datagir said that he had inquired from the government what role Pakistan had played in the recovery by Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) of "a few million pounds belonging to a Pakistani".

"I also asked them how much had been recovered and upon the repatriation of the funds to Pakistan, where they will be used."

He said the government did not have an answer to the queries. "But we will keep asking these questions on behalf of the people."

Read: Silence of the lambs

The PML-N leader said Pakistan is undergoing the worst food inflation crisis from the prices of tomatoes to flour, from pulses to onions "and the government is doing nothing (to address these issues)".

On the issue of the Election Commission of Pakistan's pending appointments, he said while it seems that "the government is happy having crippled the state of Pakistan", the opposition's "best efforts" are underway to come to a unanimous agreement over the candidates.

Akbar's rebuttal

Later in the evening, the PM's aide on accountability Shahzad Akbar held a press briefing of his own to counter the PML-N allegations regarding the performance of the Asset Recovery Unit.

Laying out a lengthy blueprint of how the Unit came to be, he said that the Unit was formed on the recommendation of the Supreme Court's task force which found that Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), etc., operate in silos and need better coordination to expedite recovery of assets.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Friday. — PID
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Friday. — PID

Akbar said that the Unit provides "a forum to unearth new cases and fast track existing ones".

He said that the amount recovered is returned to the treasury by the respective organisations, not by the Unit, and details of which can be obtained from the organisations themselves.

"Since your query was directed to this particular institution, it is not as if it has its own bank account (for it to provide details of funds)."

He then went on to provide a break up of the amounts recovered by the various organisations that come together under the umbrella of the Unit.

"Anti Corruption Establishment's recoveries of land alone amount to Rs129 billion, whereas cash recoveries in one year alone amount to Rs2bn; in the past ten years it amounted to Rs430 million. When it was made independent last year, that's when recoveries took off."

He said recoveries in FBR in the past year were more than Rs7bn.

Responding to a query related to the expenses incurred by the Unit in making these recoveries, Akbar said that in FY2018-19 Rs15.3 million and in FY2019-20 Rs8.2 million were spent. He said this included the salaries of permanent staff of the unit.

He said that when the questionnaire was disbursed, the response had been furnished "without any delay", including details of foreign tours demanded.

Responding to another query, he said the Auditor General of Pakistan audits the Unit every year.

"When they were unable to say anything inside parliament, a lot of hue and cry was raised outside," he said of the PML-N's press conference.