Imran calls Farah Khan 'absolutely innocent', probe against her a 'political vendetta'
PTI chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan on Sunday defended Farah Khan, a close aide of his wife Bushra Bibi as "absolutely innocent", describing the corruption probe against her as a "political vendetta" against him.
His remarks come days after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) initiated an inquiry against her for allegedly possessing "illegal assets beyond known sources of income, money laundering, and maintaining various accounts in the name of businesses".
In a statement, NAB had said a "huge turnover amounting to Rs847 million has been found in [Farah Khan’s] account during the last three years, which does not commensurate with (sic) her stated account profile,” NAB said in a statement.
"I want to ask NAB: the case that you have opened against Farah Khan — show it to anyone. Does this even merit a case?," he asked in a response to a question during a press conference in Islamabad, where he presented his party's white paper on the ruling coalition's graft cases.
"First they (NAB) say she has wealth beyond known sources of income. This only applies to public office holders. Was she ever an MNA or a public office holder? She has been working in real estate for the past 20 years," he said.
Imran added that the NAB said her assets saw a significant increase in three years. "Just check and see how much real estate has made money [for people] — it is the most in Pakistan's history. Ask the ones in real estate how much money they've made. But it is no crime."
Read more: NAB orders inquiry against Farah Khan on allegations of amassing illegal assets, money laundering
"It is the same case that Jemima faced regarding alleged smuggling of tiles. Her only fault that she was my wife," Imran said, adding that the only reason for that case was because of her connection to him.
"She (Farah) is absolutely innocent. I want her to have the opportunity [to defend herself]. A proper hearing should be conducted."
Later in the day, NAB's Lahore branch issued a press release that addressed Imran's question of whether it had the jurisdiction to investigate Farah's case.
The corruption watchdog said it could initiate an inquiry of assets in excess of income against any public office holder or their family members.
The press release said that Farah's husband, Ahsan Jamil Gujjar, was chairman of the Gujranwala District Council from 1997 to 1999 and, thus, complaints of corruption and financial infringement against former officials or their families fell under NAB's purview.
It added that the case regarding Farah had been sent to NAB's Lahore branch by NAB's headquarters under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010, and National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
The press release claimed that NAB was a "free, independent, legal and constitutional" institution, which would conduct a "fair and transparent" inquiry.
Corruption record will 'disappear' soon
Khan, in his press conference, said he was presenting the white paper so that the nation could know that all of the ruling coalition's corruption cases started in their own tenures, from 2008-2018 — apart from the FIA cases.
He alleged that the new government "have started working on getting rid of the cases". "Their true interest was to get rid of the cases," he said.
The ex-PM said Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz are on bail in the Panama Papers case. "Hassan and Hussain fled the country during their tenure," he added. "When they were asked to give a reply, they said they are not Pakistani citizens.
"There is no example of this. A three-time prime minister had three properties in London. Their businesses are abroad and their sons say they are not Pakistanis. This is only what has been found in the inquiry, this is the tip of the iceberg."
The former prime minister said there are several money laundering cases involving billions of rupees against the ruling coalition. "So who are these people? They are the ones who have looted us for 30 years."
The PTI chairman alleged they took money on their servants names and sent it abroad. He said: "Now they have transferred the investigator and the IOs (investigating officer) have been removed from the case. The special prosecutor has been told not to come. They have kept the record with themselves [...] this is what happened when Musharraf gave an NRO to Zardari."
Then they have four NAB cases on Shehbaz, Hamza and Suleman, he said. In another case, he said a drain was built towards Ramzan Sugar Mills "using the public's money". "This is a straight forward corruption case," he stressed.
He alleged PM Shehbaz Sharif, when the Punjab chief minister, used the premier's plane and went on a number of foreign and domestic trips.
The PTI chief voiced apprehensions that the record of corruption cases against the ruling coalition members would "disappear" soon.
He termed what he said was the government's move to quash graft cases against itself and coalition members as "NRO II", warning that the current rulers would "resume laundering money abroad to further dent the national economy".
"The imported government has been imposed on us and they are going to start the corruption business once again," he alleged.
The ex-premier mentioned the FIA cases against the "two families", and regretted the "justice system of Pakistan could not take those cases to its logical conclusion".
Masjid-e-Nabwi incident case
He called the case against himself and his party leaders for Masjid-e-Nabwi incident as "foolish". He reiterated that those leaders would be treated in the same manner in elsewhere in the world.
"They do not understand the rage of Pakistanis against them."
Imran said the government should be ashamed of accusing him and his associates of planning the incident of Masjid-e-Nabwi. He also condemned the "treatment" meted out to Sheikh Rashid's nephew.
He then said his government had never opened cases against anyone of the opposition in his tenure. "Tell me one instance where that had happened."
The Chief Election Commissioner
In response to a question, Imran reiterated his criticism of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, saying his party has "no confidence" in him. He alleged that the CEC, at every opportunity, "victimised" the PTI
"We believe he (CEC) influenced the courts... when it was about to make its decision [on early elections]. He said to the courts that it would take six to seven months to conduct elections.
"The courts should have — at that moment — dismissed him and brought a new chief election commissioner. Because according to the Constitution, elections have to be called within 90 days when they are announced."
Imran was referring to the Supreme Court hearing of April 7, in which Raja told the court elections could not be held in 90 days because the ECP had to conduct delimitation, which would take time. Raja told the court that the commission would take a minimum of four months to conduct the delimitation and another 90 days for the general elections.
The CEC had informed the court that he personally wrote 16 letters to the then PTI government from May 2020 to 2021 seeking permission to conduct the delimitation but the government was interested in carrying out a digital census.
To a question, Imran said his march on Islamabad will be the "biggest ever" in the history of Pakistan. He has on previous occasions expressed his wish for two million supporters to flood Islamabad on his call.
"I want Pakistan to understand that this will be the biggest movement. The people are ready, they will come if we give the call today, but I want it to be the biggest in history."
However, he insisted the march would be "peaceful". "When we march, you will see that women, children and families will come out," he added. "They are saddened by what has happened in the country."