INFORMATION Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb addresses a presser at the PID centre on Sunday.—APP
INFORMATION Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb addresses a presser at the PID centre on Sunday.—APP

ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb reacted strongly on Sunday to PTI chief Imran Khan’s remarks made earlier in the day, particularly his defence of Farah Khan, and alleged that sloganeering in the courtyard of Masjid-i-Nabwi earlier this week was made at the behest of the former prime minister.

Addressing a press conference at the Press Information Department (PID), mainly in response to a lengthy talk made by PTI leaders a few hours before, Ms Aurangzeb said Imran was the only prime minister who sold off gifts from foreign countries in their own countries.

She said Imran Khan lowered the gift retention percentage from Toshakhana to 20 per cent to get those gifts and then raised it to 50pc.

He then bought those gifts from the money taken from Farah Khan, who was making billions on his behest by taking bribes for the appointment of every government official in Punjab, the minister said, alleging that Imran Khan also made money through sugar and flour scandals.

Alleges former PM planned, ordered sloganeering at Masjid-i-Nabwi

Ms Aurangzeb said a prime minister could keep cars in his use only according to the law. But Mr Khan took a BMW X5 on his way out, which was basically a car from the Prime Minister Office’s pool for foreign delegations.

Imran Khan insisted that he wanted to keep this car, although he had earlier criticised previous governments over expensive cars in Prime Minister House, she said.

She added that the price of that car when it was purchased in 2016 was Rs30 million, which was now Rs60m, and if the bomb-proofing and bullet-proofing were factored in, the vehicle now cost around Rs150m.

The minister also told the media that instead of declaring and submitting a handgun gifted by another country’s diplomat into the Toshakhana, Mr Khan smuggled that gun into Pakistan and kept it with himself.

“You are a thief, a cheat, a liar and a swindler but trying to pose yourself as a pious person only to hide the wrongdoings and corruption,” the information minister said, referring to Mr Khan.

She said Imran Khan put his political opponents in jails and detained them in death cells, but he could not prove anything wrong against them in a court of law.

The minister said Imran Khan was busy using the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and other government authorities to victimise political opponents instead of paying attention to mitigating the sufferings of citizens faced with high inflation and unemployment.

‘Front-person Farah’

She said it was ironic that Imran Khan was defending Farah Khan, whose assets allegedly surged to billions of rupees during Mr Khan’s tenure because Ms Khan was “his front person and his benami accountholder”.

The information minister said Imran Khan was upset over Farah Khan’s investigation because the tales of corruption and extortion of Ms Khan and Shahzad Akbar, Imran Khan’s aide on the anti-graft drive, were rooted in Bani Gala.

She said Imran tried everything he could to harass and persecute the opposition, including “propaganda press conferences” at PID by Mr Akbar, his special meetings with Daily Mail journalist David Rose and “false stories” carried out by the publication and imprisonment of PML-N leaders over trumped-up charges.

‘Imran behind Madina incident’

Referring to the recent incident at Masjid-i-Nabwi in Madina, Ms Aurangzeb said the sloganeering inside the holy site was made at the behest of Imran Khan.

“The PTI leadership was involved in inciting violence in society. I was the eyewitness that people sent by Imran Khan were inciting others to raise slogans and hurl abuses at her in the courtyard of Masjid-i-Nabwi,” she said. “While the ringleaders have fled to the UK same night, the poor followers have been left to face the law of the land in Saudi Arabia.”

She also highlighted the successes in the tour of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

NAB ‘empowered to probe Farah’

The National Accountability Bureau, while referring to some “speculative media reports challenging NAB’s domain to initiate an inquiry against Ms Farah Khan”, said in a statement on Sunday that the law empowered the bureau to initiate an investigation against former public office holders or their family members for accumulating assets beyond known sources of income.

The spouse of Farah Khan, Ahsan Jameel Gujjar, remained the chairman of the Gujranwala district council between 1997 and 1999, the statement said.

The National Accountability Ordinance 1999 and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 sanctioned NAB “to hold cognisable the conduct of Farah Khan being the spouse of former public office holder, under the law”, it said, adding that NAB’s Lahore chapter would conduct an inquiry “in a fair and transparent manner strictly in accordance with law”.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2022

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