NAB arrests PML-N stalwart Khawaja Asif

Published December 30, 2020
The National Accountability Bureau on Tuesday arrested PML-N leader Khawaja Asif in Islamabad. —AFP
The National Accountability Bureau on Tuesday arrested PML-N leader Khawaja Asif in Islamabad. —AFP

ISLAMABAD: In a significant development, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday arrested parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Mus­lim League-Nawaz Khawaja Muhammad Asif from outside the Islamabad residence of another senior PML-N leader where he had come to attend a party meeting.

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The dramatic arrest of the firebrand opposition leader prompted a strong reaction from the party. PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz, who was also present in the meeting held at the residence of party’s secretary general Ahsan Iqbal, alleged that NAB had acted like a “terrorist” and “kidnapped” Mr Asif in the darkness of night.

PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif in a tweet condemned the arrest of Khawaja Asif and termed it a result of the “nexus between the selectors and the selected”. “Such belittle acts reflect the government’s state of panic, but it is moving even closer to its end through such actions,” he wrote.

A spokesman for the anti-graft watchdog officially announced that Mr Asif had been arrested by a team of NAB Lahore in an “assets beyond known sources” case.

Anti-graft watchdog says opposition leader arrested in ‘assets beyond known sources’ case

Hours after arresting Mr Asif, NAB Lahore issued a statement saying that the arrested PML-N leader would be presented before an accountability court in Islamabad on Wednesday (today) to obtain a transit remand before shifting him to Lahore.

Presenting a detailed charge sheet against Mr Asif, NAB said it was carrying out investigations against the PML-N leader under Clause 4 of the NAB Ordinance 1999 and Section 3 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010.

“Before assuming the public office in 1991, the total worth of Khawaja Asif’s assets was Rs5.1 million which increased to Rs221m in 2018 after serving on different posts which do not match with his known sources of income,” says the statement.

“Accused Khawaja Asif claimed to have received Rs130m from a UAE firm M/s IMECO, but during the course of investigation, he failed to present any solid evidence of receiving this amount as a salary,” it said, adding: “This clearly shows that the accused tried to prove his income through fake sources.”

Moreover, NAB alleged that Khawaja Asif was also running a benami firm “Tariq Mir and Company” which was registered in the name of his employee. It said that an amount of Rs400m was deposited in the account of Tariq Mir and no sources of this huge amount were disclosed.

Sources told Dawn that the NAB team immediately took Mr Asif to the Federal Government Services Hospital for a medical check-up where doctors declared him completely and medically fit.

Talking to reporters who had gathered outside the residence of Mr Iqbal after hearing the news about Mr Asif’s arrest, Maryam Nawaz claimed that Khawaja Asif had himself told her that “someone” had called him for a meeting and asked him to stop supporting Nawaz Sharif. She said Mr Asif refused to do so and told the person that he was ready to face all kinds of consequences and would not leave Mr Sharif at any cost.

“I am saying this on oath. They asked Khawaja Asif to disassociate himself from Nawaz Sharif’s narrative and cases against him will be finished within 15 to 20 days. And today you saw, he was kidnapped only after few days. This is not the arrest, but kidnapping,” Ms Nawaz said, refusing to disclose the name of the person who had approached Mr Asif.

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“I do not want to disclose the names right now as this is a trust from Khawaja Asif who is not here,” she said when a reporter asked her to identify those who had threatened Mr Asif.

Ms Nawaz recalled that the Supreme Court and high courts had in their observations already declared that NAB had become an institution for political engineering and for putting pressure on the political opponents. She asked the judiciary to take notice of the NAB actions.

“The nation is looking at you [the judges]. The nation has expectations from you since you are sitting to deliver justice. It is your responsibility to dispense justice. If you are watching NAB attacking the houses like terrorists for political engineering and picking up people from their homes without any cases against them at the behest of [Prime Minister] Imran Khan then you should not stay silent. You have already made observations. You should not remain confined to the observations and step forward to stop this cruelty,” she said.

Ms Nawaz termed Khawaja Asif’s arrest a result of the government’s fear because of the opposition’s movement. She said the charge of assts beyond means was used by NAB when it found nothing against a person. “The fear of losing the government can be seen on the faces [of the ruler].”

Responding to a question, Ms Nawaz claimed that she had received resignations of 159 MPAs from Punjab out of the total 160 legislators. She said one woman MPA could not hand over her resignation as she was seriously ill and on a ventilator. Similarly, she said, all the MNAs, except one, had handed over their resignations to her.

She said the Pakistan Democratic Movement would react strongly over the arrest of Khawaja Asif and the issue would be taken up in a meeting scheduled for Thursday (tomorrow).

Talking to Dawn, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said Khawaja Asif and former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair had left the meeting telling the participants that they were required to appear in some talk shows on a TV channel and V-blog. Later, she said, a guard came in running telling them that Mr Asif had been picked up by NAB.

Besides Maryam Nawaz, those present in the meeting included Ahsan Iqbal, Rana Sanaullah, Pervaiz Rashid and Khawaja Saad Rafique.

The meeting was being held to discuss the arrangements for Wednesday’s party gathering in Islamabad in connection with its founding day.

Meanwhile, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari during a news conference in Karachi also condemned Khawaja Asif’s arrest and termed it a step against the country’s stability.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2020

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