LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has closed 20-year old last two inquiries against the Chaudhrys of Gujrat for want of evidence.
The NAB told the Lahore High Court on Wednesday that two last inquiries pending for 20 years against PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, MNA Moonis Elahi and their family members had been closed because of ‘lack of evidence’.
Recently, the NAB had closed inquiries against former premier Nawaz Sharif in the Lahore Development Authority plots allotment, Raiwind land expansion against Opposition Leader in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and the purchase of locomotives against former railways minister Khwaja Saad Rafique on similar grounds.
A NAB official told Dawn that the bureau had decided to close all those inquiries in which it did not have ‘substantial evidence’ against the suspects.
“We have been working hard to dispose of all the pending inquiries,” he said and added that NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal had directed the provincial heads to conclude the inquiries pending for years as these are causing losses to the national exchequer.
These cases had been pending for the last 20 years
NAB-Lahore Director General Shahzad Saleem also appeared before a two-judge bench when a deputy prosecutor filed a report about the closure of the inquiries -- assets beyond means against Mr Shujaat, Mr Elahi, Mr Moonis and their families -- and illegal appointments in local government departments against Parvez Elahi.
The prosecutor said the inquiries had been closed owing to a lack of “tangible evidence”. In the light of the bureau’s report, the bench comprising Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan and Justice Shehram Sarwar Chaudhry disposed of the petitions filed by the Chaudhry brothers wherein they alleged that the NAB had been used for ‘political engineering’.
At the previous hearing of the petitions held on Dec 17, 2020, the bench had directed the NAB to conclude within four weeks the inquiries pending for the last 20 years against the leaders of the PML-Q, the ally of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government.
The bench had asked DG Saleem as to how an investigation could be initiated against declared assets of a taxpayer. The bench had also asked the DG about the details of his own assets.
The PML-Q leaders had pleaded that all the inquiries against them had been recommended for closure by the investigating officers and the regional board of the NAB during 2017 and 2018. However, they said sitting chairman of the NAB, retired justice Javed Iqbal, approved reinvestigation and bifurcation of the inquiries against them after a period of 20 years.
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.
The NAB had accused the PML-Q leaders of accumulating illegal assets during the period of 1985 to 2019.
Earlier, the NAB had closed two inquiries related to loan default and an 18-year-old LDA plots case against the Chaudhry brothers for want of evidence.
“The NAB investigators thoroughly investigated these allegations against the Chaudhry brothers and found them baseless. During the course of investigation, no incriminating material was found against them,” the official said.
The Chaudhrys had appeared before the NAB Lahore and responded to its queries in these inquiries. The income beyond means case was instituted against them by retired Gen Pervez Musharraf in the early 2000s after coming to power in the wake of the military coup.
A PML-Q leader told Dawn that since these cases had been pending for two decades, the Chaudhrys had provided the required records to NAB’s combined investigation teams probing the matter.
“Former NAB chairman retired Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool had conceded that there was nothing in these cases against them as these were instituted on political grounds,” he said and added that even the Sharif brothers -- Nawaz and Shehbaz -- during 2008 and 2018 had resorted to every possible tactics against the Chaudhry brothers and got their all financial matters examined thoroughly just to settle a score but they failed in their designs.
Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2021