ISLAMABAD: PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday moved the Islamabad High Court (IHC) challenging an accountability court’s decision to reject his plea for quashing a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reference against him over the alleged misuse of power as a former planning and development minister.
The accountability court had dismissed Mr Iqbal’s petition on February 22.
In the reference filed in November 2020, the anti-graft watchdog had accused the former minister of misusing authority by funding a provincial government project in his constituency, Narowal Sports City, and illegally increasing its scope from Rs34.75 million to Rs3 billion.
The project valuing Rs34.74m was approved by the Central Development Working Party when Mr Iqbal headed it as the planning minister. However, it was shelved by the Pakistan Sports Board in 1999 on the directives of the planning ministry, which declared it ‘without requisite weightage with respect to economic necessity’.
The project was re-launched in 2009 when it was approved at a cost of Rs732m, but it was devolved to the Punjab government two years later after the introduction of 18th Constitution Amendment.
Mr Iqbal was arrested by NAB in December 2019 and remained in custody for two months.
He pleaded innocent to the charge, but NAB accused him of launching the project in his Narowal constituency by misusing his office as the planning and development minister during the PML-N government.
He also faced the charge of escalating the project’s cost.
In the petition filed in the Islamabad High Court under Section 265-K of the Criminal Procedure Code, the former minister has contended that Article 164 of the Constitution allowed the federal government to fund the provincial governments’ projects.
He said the Narowal Sports City project was executed after the federal government formally approved it.
Alleging that NAB had filed the reference against him as part of the ruling PTI’s campaign to victimise political opponents, Mr Iqbal requested the high court to quash the reference.
Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2022