LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) secretary general Ahsan Iqbal says his party could be ready to support a no-confidence motion to topple the government, provided the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) comes up with a "workable proposal".
Accompanied by PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, Mr Iqbal said in a press conference on Sunday that if PPP brought a successful no-trust motion against the Senate chairman, then the PML-N would follow suit by moving a no-confidence motion in the Punjab Assembly, where the PPP had only six seats.
The PPP has been asking the PML-N for an in-house change in Punjab, assuring it that many of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf lawmakers would support the move.
Referring to the alleged victimisation of the opposition, particularly PML-N leaders, by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency, Mr Iqbal said the NAB chairman was “dancing to the tune of the government” because the latter had some (objectionable) video clips of the NAB chief.
NAB accused of turning a blind eye to corruption of ruling clique
He dared the NAB chairman to ask retired general Asim Saleem Bajwa as to how he had amassed assets worth millions of dollars “through his salary”.
Likewise, he said the Kartarpur corridor project was executed at a cost of Rs17bn without prior formal approval by the Central Development Working Party but the NAB could not dare object to it “because there is the ‘baton’ involved in the matter” while allegations were being levelled against civilians during the last three years.
“Corruption worth billions of rupees has been committed in the Peshawar metro bus project but the anti-corruption watchdog has closed its eyes to it,” he added.
Replying to a question, Mr Iqbal said his party’s government had committed a blunder by not trying Imran Khan and others in the PTV attack case during the 2014 Islamabad sit-in. The assailants should have been awarded exemplary punishment, he added.
Challenging Prime Minister Imran Khan’s image of “Mr clean”, the PML-N leader said he was living in a one-kanal rented house but paying income tax more than the prime minister who was residing in a 300 plus kanal palace, and asked the PTI supporters to explain this anomaly to the masses.
Terming the prime minister “head of mafias”, Mr Iqbal said reports about corruption in various state institutions had been submitted to the National Assembly but the government would not release the same so that its corruption was not exposed.
He said the auditor-general of Pakistan had reported corruption worth billions of rupees in Covid-19 relief aid but the document was not being made public.
He said Pakistan’s ranking in the corruption index had risen during the tenure of the PTI government.
Mr Iqbal said the government had unleashed an economic disaster on Pakistan since 2018 as a silent war had been waged on the economy by heavily depreciating rupee against dollar. He said just Re1 devaluation added Rs90 to the burden of national debt.
He said the government opened a new ‘false’ case against the opposition whenever it was defeated on any front to divert public attention from the failure.
Referring to the Narowal Sports City case against him, Mr Iqbal said it had been proved wrong and even his enemies stood witness to it.
Reacting to an allegation by Special Assistant to the PM on Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill that Mr Iqbal’s brother was given a contract worth millions of rupees by the PML-N government, he said former chief minister Shehbaz Sharif was being implicated in a false case in this respect.
Ms Aurangzeb said the government’s spokespersons would wave documents in press conferences while alleging that Shehbaz Sharif was involved in corruption in clean water, Lahore and Multan metro bus projects as well as in money laundering, but nothing would be proved in any case.
She regretted that the Rawalpindi NAB had summoned Mr Sharif in yet another case. She said Mr Sharif was earlier accused of corruption worth hundreds of billions of rupees but now he was being accused of embezzlement of Rs4.5 million in purchase of plants for plantation purposes.
Reacting to Ms Aurangzeb’s remarks, Mr Gill said in a statement the investigation agencies were rightfully raising questions about the embezzlement and asked if the amount was owned by the Sharifs and was it not taken from the national kitty.
Ms Aurangzeb said Shehbaz Sharif executed development projects worth Rs3.3 trillion as the chief minister and saved Rs1.0tr through negotiations with the contractors.
She said the former chief minister had commissioned metro bus services in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan at a cost of Rs100bn, while the PTI’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government could not develop Peshawar metro bus despite while spending Rs126bn on it. But, she lamented, NAB would not object to this badly executed project.
Note: The original story has been slightly amended to give greater clarity to Ahsan Iqbal's remarks.
Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2021