PTI demands probe following death of Sharifs’ ex-employee

Published June 10, 2022
PTI leaders Yasmin Rashid and Hammad Azhar at a press conference on Thursday. — PTI/Twitter
PTI leaders Yasmin Rashid and Hammad Azhar at a press conference on Thursday. — PTI/Twitter

LAHORE: A central figure in the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Rs16 billion money laundering case against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz has passed away in Dubai ‘under mysterious circumstances’, prompting the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to demand an independent investigation to ascertain the real cause of the person’s death as well as that of the agency’s investigator Dr Muhammad Rizwan.

No cause was mentioned in the death certificate issued by the UAE health ministry on June 7. However, some media reports suggested he died of cardiac arrest.

Malik Maqsood Ahmad, 49 — popularised as Maqsood ‘Chaprasi’ (peon) by PTI leaders through their mention of his name incessantly to criticise the Sharif family’s alleged corruption — was a co-accused and proclaimed offender in the money laundering case against the PM and his family. He had reportedly left for the UAE in 2018, just before the PTI came to power. Ousted prime minister Imran Khan often referred to him in his public speeches alleging that PM Sharif and his sons laundered billions of rupees using Maqsood’s bank account.

According to FIA special prosecutor Farooq Bajwa, Maqsood’s death would not impact the money laundering case. “Maqsood was a suspect and not a witness, thus his death will not affect the case,” Bajwa told Dawn.com.

Suspects ‘foul play’ in recent deaths of investigators, key figures in money laundering cases against PML-N leaders

Smelling a rat, the opposition PTI has demanded an independent probe to ascertain the cause of death of Maqsood as well as FIA investigator Dr Rizwan.

The PTI chairman, while commenting on Pakistan Economic Survey in a televised address on Thursday demanded inquiries into the deaths of Dr Rizwan and Maqsood.

He claimed that the house of a NAB officer probing cases against ex-president Asif Ali Zardari was raided to intimidate him.

“It is very disturbing news. Those investigating the Sharifs or witnesses in their cases are dying suddenly. First, Dr Rizwan died suddenly. And now Maqsood Chaprasi, an important witness, in this case is also no more. That is why the Supreme Court has called the Sharifs ‘Sicilian Mafia’. We demand investigation into both deaths,” former federal minister Fawad Chaudhry said in a tweet.

PTI information secretary Farrukh Habib also said the mysterious death of Maqsood raised several questions. “After the Shehbaz Sharif government came to power, the sudden deaths of Dr Rizwan and Maqsood, and change of prosecutor in the money laundering case (against Shehbaz and others) are evident of the Sicilian Mafia,” he tweeted.

PTI central Punjab president Dr Yasmin Rashid and general secretary Hammad Azhar also demanded Maqsood’s postmortem, maintaining that the nation should be informed who would be his heirs and claimants of the Rs3bn apparently lying in his account.

Speaking at a news conference here on Thursday, the PTI leaders said it was a matter of grave concern that people related to cases against the Sharif family were dying. The PML-N has also started burning important records related to the cases of the family, they alleged.

Dr Rizwan, 47, was the FIA Lahore director who died of a heart attack last month. He had proceeded on a long leave just before the formation of the PMLN-led coalition government and was later transferred from his office.

An FIA special court in its hearing last week had issued a fresh arrest warrant for Maqsood, PM Shehbaz’s son Suleman, who is absconding in the UK, and Syed Tahir Naqvi (who has also fled to the UAE).

In December 2021, it had submitted an investigation report against Shehbaz and Hamza to a special court over their alleged involvement in laundering Rs16bn in the sugar scam case.

Maqsood was a peon at the Ramzan Sugar Mills belonging to the sons of Shehbaz. The FIA had found Rs3bn in his bank account. “Maqsood worked as a tea boy/peon at the Ramzan Sugar Mills. His last drawn salary was Rs25,000 in 2017 and then he absconded to the UAE on March 14, 2018. At least seven benami accounts were opened in his name where Rs3bn was transferred,” the FIA had said.

The FIA has nominated Shehbaz and his sons — Hamza and Suleman — as the principal accused in the case. Fourteen others have been named in the FIR under sections 5(2) and 5(3) (criminal misconduct) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, read with 3/4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act. Both Shehbaz and Hamza are on pre-arrest bail in the case till June 11 (tomorrow).

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2022

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