PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal arrested by NAB in sports complex corruption case

Updated December 23, 2019

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PML-N stalwart Ahsan Iqbal talks to reporters before appearing before NAB. — DawnNews TV
PML-N stalwart Ahsan Iqbal talks to reporters before appearing before NAB. — DawnNews TV

Senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Monday from the anti-corruption watchdog's Rawalpindi chapter's office where he had appeared to record his statement in the case regarding alleged corruption in Narowal Sports City (NSC) Project.

NAB confirmed the arrest in a statement, adding that a team of doctors had been called for the PML-N MNA's medical assessment. Iqbal will be produced before an accountability court tomorrow, where NAB will ask for his physical remand.

Iqbal is accused of using funds of the federal government and the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) for a sports city being established in Narowal — a multi-billion-rupee project.

The PML-N secretary general had earlier said he had submitted documents related to his income and expenditures to NAB Rawalpindi. The opposition leader had already replied to a questionnaire given to him by the bureau in connection with the same case.

Speaking to the media before heading to NAB, Iqbal earlier today said that when the PML-N came to power in 2013, he, as planning minister, had taken up several projects that were incomplete and NSC was one of them. He said that the funds spent on the project were approved by the cabinet, parliament and the National Economic Council.

He explained that the amount of money spent on NSC had exceeded its original cost because when the project was taken up again, the plan was revised and the project was expanded.

Yesterday, he had said that before the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) came to power, the project of NSC was 90 per cent complete, but the present government had turned it into ruins.

He said that AstroTurf (artificial grass) was imported for the ground in the sports city. It was to be laid within six months.

“The present government stalled the project and did not place AstroTurf. As a result, the artificial grass has become useless.”

PML-N lashes out at NAB, govt

PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif condemned Iqbal's arrest and termed it as "proof of NAB-Niazi nexus".

"The arrest of a man who strengthened Pak-China friendship and CPEC is condemnable and regrettable," he said in a statement.

"The arrest of Ahsan Iqbal for completing an incomplete project, which should have earned him praise, is the worst example of political revenge.

"We will continue to unveil the government's anti-CPEC, anti-Pakistan and anti-public policies."

Following his arrest, party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb lashed out at the government and NAB and said that the party will "continue to speak like this". She said that Iqbal's "fault is that he is Nawaz Sharif's companion, speaks the truth and loves the people of Pakistan".

"Do what you want to do. Arrest someone else, threaten someone else. PML-N is Nawaz Sharif's party. It does not bow, it doesn't get scared and doesn't sell [itself]."

"All those who are capable and truthful are in jail today," she said. Aurangzeb demanded NAB to look into the Peshawar BRT project, which is lying in the doldrums.

"If anyone has misused authority, it is Imran Khan," she declared.

"PML-N will not hand over this country to incompetent people. This country belongs to the 220 million people of the country."

In response to a question, Aurangzeb said: "Cooperating with NAB means to stay quiet, to not speak the truth about this government [...] Yes, Ahsan Iqbal did not cooperate, will not cooperate. PML-N will not cooperate."

Who is Ahsan Iqbal?

Born in 1958, Ahsan Iqbal is a PML-N stalwart who serves as the party's secretary general and previously held the post of Minister of Interior and Minister for Planning and Development, under the premiership of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Iqbal has been associated with prestigious educational institutions such as Government College Lahore, University of Engineering and Technology (Lahore), University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University and Harvard University.

He has been elected as an MNA five times — in 1993, 1997, 2008, 2013 and 2018.

Iqbal has held other key government positions in the past as well, serving as deputy chairman Planning Commission, chairman Pakistan Engineering Board and chairman of the National Steering Committees on Information Technology and IQM and Productivity.

Iqbal has to his credit Pakistan's first national IT policy which was formulated upon his initiative. He also taught management at the Mohammad Ali Jinnah University in Islamabad (2000-2007) and chairs a think-tank called Better Pakistan Foundation.

The PML-N leader also served as federal minister for education with an additional charge of minorities’ affairs for a short period before his party pulled out of the PPP-led coalition government in 2008.