LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau on Wednesday informed the Lahore High Court that a reference, pertaining to illegal appointments, against Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervez Elahi had been sent to the NAB chairman for approval while an inquiry into the assets beyond means case, involving PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, was in its final stage.
A two-judge bench comprising Justice Raja Shahid Mehmood Abbasi and Justice Shehram Sarwar Chaudhry was hearing a petition by the Chaudhry brothers challenging three 20-year-old inquiries against them by NAB.
Asked about the time the NAB still required to file the references, a special prosecutor informed the bench that the reference against Mr Elahi for making illegal appointments was lying with the NAB chairman for formal approval. In this reference, Mr Elahi is accused of misuse of authority and making illegal appointments in the local government board during his 2002-07 stint as chief minister of Punjab.
The prosecutor further said that the inquiry against the Chaudhry brothers and their family members was near completion. He sought six more weeks to conclude the investigation and file the reference before the trial court.
However, the bench allowed four-week time and directed the prosecutor to submit a progress report on the next hearing.
The PML-Q leaders, allies of the PTI-led government, had alleged in their petition that the institution of the NAB was being used for political engineering and old cases against them were being repeatedly opened and closed.
They said then chairman of the bureau in 2000 had authorized the investigation against them on the allegations of misuse of authority, assets beyond means and willful default under the National Accountability Ordinance 1999.
They said all the three investigations were recommended for closure by the investigating officers and regional board of the NAB during 2017 and 2018 when the regime of political arch rivals was in place.
However, the sitting chairman of the NAB approved re-investigation and bifurcation of the inquiries against them after an investigation spanning over a period of 19 years since authorisation of investigation in the year 2000.
They asked the court to set aside the authorisation of the inquiries and the order for their bifurcation passed by the NAB chairman for being unlawful.
In its reply, the NAB had alleged that the petitioners committed money laundering and accumulated illegal assets. It said the wealth of Mr Hussain and his family increased to Rs2.556 billion from 1985 to 2018. Their shareholding has also increased to over Rs500 million from around Rs2 million in 1985.
The family of Hussain has also acquired properties worth more than Rs123 million and his two sons namely Shafay Hussain and Salik Hussain have given loan amounting to Rs1.5 billion to different companies owned by them.
About Mr Elahi, the bureau alleged that the wealth of his family increased to Rs4.069 billion from 1985 to 2018. And their shareholding increased to Rs3 billion from 1985 to 2019 while the family acquired properties worth over Rs250 million.
It alleged that foreign remittances of Rs978 million had been received in the bank accounts operated by the family of Mr Elahi since 2004.
Though PML-Q is a partner in the PTI-led coalition in centre and Punjab, its leadership is on NAB radar for some time. Its leadership calls it political engineering.
Media reports last week suggested Pakistani authorities had been trying to trace UK assets of the Chaudhrys, mainly Moonis Elahi.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2020