LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar is in hot water as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is planning to open more investigations against him regarding acquiring property mostly in south Punjab in the names of his relatives and others after finding an approver against him in a case involving issuance of a liquor licence, according to sources.
On Wednesday, Mr Buzdar appeared before a combined investigation team of NAB at its Thokhar Niaz Baig office that grilled him for allegedly receiving Rs50 million in bribe to force the Excise and Taxation Department to issue a liquor licence to a hotel in violation of the law.
“Mr Buzdar was quizzed for 100 minutes in which 60 questions were put to him. He could hardly offer any answer to the questions,” a source told Dawn.
“He kept insisting that he should be given every question in writing and he would submit the reply later. He said he was the chief minister and every word of his had importance; therefore, he needed to reply in writing.”
Asks Punjab CM to submit replies by Aug 18
The source said Mr Buzdar was asked why he forced the former Excise and Taxation Department head, Ashraf Gondal, to issue a liquor licence to an under-construction hotel in violation of rules.
He was also asked about his association with former chief secretary Raheel Siddiqui and reasons behind his appointment (as chief secretary), a ‘fight’ between Mr Gondal and Mr Siddiqui over the licence issue, a special CM’s meeting on this matter, the role of his uncle for allegedly receiving bribe at his behest, and his relations with the owner of the hotel in question, etc.
“When he was reminded that he had declared during a recent media talk he was fully prepared to reply to NAB queries, Mr Buzdar insisted he would reply in writing,” the source said.
Showing their dissatisfaction over his ‘non-cooperation’, the investigators entertained his request and handed over some 12 pages containing the questions relating to the liquor case and the record of his and his relatives’ properties.
The NAB team asked him to submit a reply by Aug 18. Mr Buzdar sought more time but his request was declined.
According to the source, Mr Buzdar, who was chosen for the post of Punjab chief minister by Prime Minister Imran Khan himself, seems to be in real trouble following the statement by Mr Gondal to NAB that he was forced by the CM’s office “verbally” to issue the liquor licence in violation of the rules.
“Mr Gondal, who appeared before NAB recently, has agreed to become an approver against Mr Buzdar in the liquor case,” the source said.
Mr Buzdar called on Prime Minister Khan in Islamabad on Tuesday where NAB’s investigation against him in the liquor case was reportedly discussed. “Although the premier is still apparently backing his pick from D.G. Khan, NAB’s tightening of noose around his neck may force him (Mr Khan) to replace his ‘Wasim Akram-plus’,” a ruling party insider said.
On his return from the NAB office, the Punjab chief minister said in a tweet: “Today I appeared before NAB in a ‘personal capacity’ and presented my point of view. To remove the misperception I presented facts. In ‘New Pakistan’ no one is above the law. Yesterday the nation saw the law violators (a reference to Maryam Nawaz and PML-N workers) and today the law abiders.”
Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2020