LAHORE: With Chaudhry Parvez Elahi constantly creating hurdles in the way of smooth functioning of the PML-N-led Punjab government, the Sharifs have finally decided to institute cases against the associates of the Punjab Assembly speaker to ‘fix them’.

Acting on orders from the top, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Wednesday booked former federal minister Moonis Elahi of the PML-Q, PA Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti and six others on charges of money laundering in the sugar scam. The government has also left room in the first information report (FIR) to lay hands on Parvez Elahi later.

After the FIR was filed, Moonis reached the FIA office on Temple Road in the evening to join the investigation. However, the agency asked him to visit on Thursday (today) during office hours. “I have come from Islamabad. I haven’t applied for a pre-arrest bail. If the PML-N government wants to arrest me, torture me, it can do so, as I am ready for it,” he told reporters.

“The Sharifs constantly pressured us to part ways with Imran Khan. On our refusal, they started showing their true colours. In the coming days, they may book our other family members and workers in fake cases,” he remarked.

The former minister further said there was a Rs16 billion money laundering case against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and his sons Hamza and Suleman, but the FIA failed to arrest them. He chided Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah for claiming that former premier Imran Khan wanted action against him (Moonis) in the sugar scam. “Rana Sanaullah revealed his fears to us that Imran Khan sent PML-N leaders and their cohorts behind bars and humiliated them,” he said, adding all his business transactions were documented and lawful, and his assets were declared.

Addressing the interior minister, Moonis said: “Rana Sanaullah, do whatever you want to, I stand by Imran Khan and am ready to face the consequences.”

The FIA said arrests in this case would only be made after acquiring ‘tangible evidence’ against the suspects. Moonis’s lawyer, Amir Saeed Rawn said the move would be challenged in the high court as such a case could not be registered without a prior inquiry.

Legal expert Barrister Umer Riaz said there was a fundamental flaw in money laundering FIRs registered by any investigation agency, as they could only be instituted after evidence was acquired against suspects.

A PML-N insider told Dawn that the decision to register the FIR against the scion of the Chaudhrys was taken on Tuesday evening after consultation among the Sharifs. “The consent of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif was also sought from London,” he said, adding the Sharif family was of the view that since Mr Elahi was creating a lot of trouble for the Hamza-led government in Punjab, it was time to fix him and his family members.

Even a day earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz had hinted at the PML-N government’s plans. “We have decided to fix Parvez Elahi,” he had said on Tuesday following the ruling coalition’s failure to present the province’s budget for the fiscal year 2022-23 even after two consecutive days owing to a deadlock with Speaker Elahi.

Interestingly, Elahi’s cousin, PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, is a part of the ruling coalition that is initiating action against the speaker.

The FIA has booked Moonis, PA secretary Bhatti, Muhammad Nawaz Bhatti, Muhammad Ali, Mazhar Abbas, Makhdoom Omar Shehryar, Tarik Jawaid and Wajid Khan Bhatti under Section 5(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act 1947 read with sections 34, 109, 420, 468, 471 of the PPC and 3/4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 in connection with the affairs of the RYK/Alliance Sugar Mills Group. The agency has reportedly taken Nawaz and Mazhar into custody.

The FIR says the no-objection certificate for setting up the mills was issued in June 2007 when Parvez Elahi was the chief minister of Punjab, thus his “culpability will be determined during investigation”.

Meanwhile, a special court (offence in banks) granted interim pre-arrest bail to PA secretary Bhatti.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2022

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