LAHORE: As Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar is reportedly upset over the ‘move’ of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to seek record of his and his relatives’ properties, the anti-graft body on Thursday quizzed his former principal secretary Raheel Ahmed Siddiqui in a case of issuance of a liquor licence in violation of the law.
“Dr Siddiqui appeared before a combined investigation team of NAB at its Thokar Niaz Baig office that interrogated him for more than three hours for his role in allegedly pressuring the Excise and Taxation Department head to issue a liquor licence to an under-construction hotel,” a source told Dawn. The investigators asked him many times whether he did so on the direction of CM Buzdar or his (Buzdar’s) uncle who was in the police department. “Dr Siddiqui remained non-committal. At this, NAB summoned him again for Aug 17, asking him to bring more relevant record in this regard,” the source said.
When a journalist asked Mr Siddiqui outside the NAB office whether he was going to become an approver against CM Buzdar in this case, Mr Siddiqui said: “I will not comment on this. I had read in my school... ‘Do the right, fear no man’. I am totally innocent in the matter and it is proved by the record”.
According to the source, the former Excise and Taxation Department head, Ashraf Gondal, has agreed to become an approver against Mr Buzdar in the liquor case.
“NAB is mulling to confront Dr Siddiqui with Mr Gondal besides summoning CM Buzdar’s uncle to record his statement with regard to the Rs50m bribe he allegedly received to get the licence issued with the help of the CM,” the source said and added that if Dr Siddiqui agreed to become an approver against the CM, it would be legally extremely difficult for Mr Buzdar to prove his innocence in the presence of two approvers.
More trouble in store for the Punjab CM
The Buzdar camp is trying to read ‘some message’ in NAB’s ‘extra efficiency’ in handling this case and considering opening more investigations against him. Mr Buzdar consulted a team of lawyers over the matter, which observed that the bureau usually gave 14 days for a reply to his questionnaire.
“But in Mr Buzdar’s case, only six days (till Aug 18) are given to him to submit the record regarding his and his relatives’ properties.”
A NAB official said it had issued summons to Mr Buzdar on Aug 6 in the liquor case and as far as the record of his properties was concerned, he was an elected member and the record of his properties and tax was ‘just a click away’.
NAB has accused Mr Buzdar of acquiring property, mostly in south Punjab, in the names of his relatives and others.
On Wednesday, NAB investigators had grilled Mr Buzdar for allegedly receiving Rs50m in bribe to force the Excise and Taxation Department to issue a liquor licence to a hotel in violation of the law. He has been asked to submit the reply of a 12-page questionnaire to NAB Lahore.
“The way NAB is going after Mr Buzdar, it appears pressure has been mounting on Prime Minister Imran Khan with every passing day to decide the fate of the Punjab CM,” the source said.
Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2020