ISLAMABAD: The government and the opposition continued to exchange barbs on Tuesday after former federal minister and PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal wrote a letter to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), asking it to file a reference against Prime Minister Imran Khan for what he called misuse of authority causing delay in completion of the multi-billion-rupee Narowal Sports City project.
On the other hand, Information Minister Shibli Faraz again levelled corruption allegations against the leaders of opposition parties, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and ex-president Asif Ali Zardari, and said they criticised the government and the prime minister for hiding their own corruption.
In his letter, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz secretary general Ahsan Iqbal asked NAB to register a corruption case against “PM Imran Ahmed Niazi” for misuse of authority and “sabotaging” an important national project through “willful default” and “criminal breach of trust” on political grounds regarding the Narowal Sports City.
Minister says opposition leaders criticise government for hiding their own corruption
Mr Ahsan said he had been accused by NAB of misusing authority in the project, which was Pakistan’s first of its kind residential and integrated sports training and playing complex. He said the project started in 2009 when he didn’t hold any executive office. The project was lying incomplete in 2013 and work on it resumed with the approval of the competent authority, he added.
He alleged that the real crime to sabotage this most important project for sports development in the country was stopping the release of remaining funds and work at the behest of the prime minister. “For the last two years, the project has been abandoned with major damages to the facilities already constructed. Astroturf and athletic field track imported worth millions of rupees were not installed in time and have been wasted lying in crates,” he added.
Mr Iqbal said the remaining Rs400 million was required to complete the project from total approved cost of Rs2.9 billion of which 86 per cent funds had been spent. Now additional amount has to be spent on remobilisation claims and cost escalation heads in order to complete this project, he said.
He said the prime minister and his accomplices were guilty of misuse of authority for sabotaging an important national project through willful default and criminal breach of trust on political grounds, thereby causing billions of rupees of losses to the national exchequer. “Therefore, a case should be registered against them for willful loss to the national project and they should be made personally liable for any cost escalation in respect of completing the project,” he added.
Addressing a press conference, the information minister wondered how Ahsan Iqbal was defending his party leadership who was sitting abroad after looting the national wealth. “This incapable opposition is competing itself with a capable and honest government,” he added.
Shibli Faraz said the opposition was making a hue and cry because corruption of its leaders was being exposed by the government. “You are comparing your leaders with Khan Sahib who brought here his hard-earned money from abroad and presented his money trail in the Supreme Court. On the other hand, your leaders are enjoying in palaces in foreign countries and have no pain of the people of Pakistan,” he said.
The minister said the previous governments of the PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had put the country under heavy burden of foreign loans. He said not only PML-N leaders Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif committed corruption, leaders of the PPP also did the same and bought Surrey Palace in United Kingdom and laundered money in Swiss banks. “The government is facing mafias which are being backed by the leaders of opposition parties.”
Mr Faraz said the government had steered the country out of the Covid-19 crisis and the strategy of the prime minister was acknowledged by the world. “We did not suffer as much as other countries like the US, India and Europe did during the global coronavirus crisis,” he added.
Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2020