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Federal Minister for Information & Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira in a meeting with desk editors of leading national dailies at Governor House. — Photo by APP

LAHORE: Federal Minister for Information Qamar Zaman Kaira on Saturday unveiled the government’s plan to complete the investigation against beneficiaries of the Mehran Bank scandal, including the Sharifs, in the “shortest possible time”, leaving a ‘sword of disqualification’ hanging over their heads before the general election if their involvement of receiving money from the ISI is established.

“Although there has been no deadline set by the Supreme Court, the government will try to complete the investigation in the shortest possible time, possibly before the interim set-up,” Mr Kaira said.

The tenure of the People’s Party-led government is to end on March 18.

A senior Federal Investigation Agency official told Dawn that if the government constituted separate teams for different stations like Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi, it would be able to complete the investigation in two months against those politicians who received money in 1990 to stop Benazir Bhutto-led PPP from coming to power. He said it would not be an ‘easy’ probe as the FIA might face a lot of hurdles during the process.

According to Gen Asad Durrani’s affidavit, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was given Rs3.5 million, Mir Afzal Khan Rs10 million, Lt-Gen Rafaqat Rs5.6 million for distribution among journalists, Abida Hussain Rs1 million, Jamaat-i-Islami Rs5 million, Altaf Hussain Qureshi Rs500,000, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi Rs5 million, Jam Sadiq Rs5 million, Junejo Rs250,000, Pir Pagara Rs2 million, Maulana Salahuddin Rs300,000, Humayun Marri (Nawab Bugti’s son-in-law) Rs1.5 million, Jamali Rs4 million, Kakar Rs1 million, K. Baloch Rs500,000, Jam Yousuf Rs750,000, Bizenjo Rs500,000, Nader Mengal Rs1 million, Malik Meraj Khalid Rs500,000, Hafeez Pirzada Rs2 million, Mustafa Khar Rs2 million and Sarwar Cheema Rs500,000.

Talking to reporters at the Governor’s House here on Saturday, the information minister said: “The PPP stands vindicated as it was neither a petitioner in the case nor a judge.”

He wondered at the PML-N’s ‘pre-emptive stance’ to save the skin of its leadership. “The PML-N men have a very interesting interpretation of the Supreme Court’s verdict. They allege that the PPP had given an award to Gen Aslam Beg and ambassadorship to Gen Asad Durrani – the main characters behind doling out of money to politicians – but in an attempt to cast doubts on any investigation into the Sharifs’ role, the PML-N is twisting the facts,” he said, adding that the court’s decision was before everyone and “we do not need to interpret it”.

“Let me tell you, once the investigation begins, the PML-N will try to give it a political colour, but the PPP does not believe in victimisation. And above all, the apex court will monitor the process,” the minister said.

Mr Kaira, who is also information secretary of his party, further said either the FIA or Joint Investigation team (JIT) could be tasked to investigate the matter. “The verdict has at least made it clear who is a product of the agencies.”

He also ruled out any talks with the PML-N over the probe. “The probe will be transparent and there will be no ‘deal’ with PML-N over this matter,” he said.

Asked whether the verdict has any implication for President Asif Ali Zardari’s holding of dual office, Mr Kaira said: “The president’s office is a political one as he is elected through a political process. But in case the president’s conduct is not impartial, the question of his partisan arises.”

Flanked by Usman Malik and Munawar Anjum, Mr Kaira said former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan had stolen the people’s mandate by becoming a party. “Mr Zardari, as President, has favoured no particular party,” he contended.

Mr Kaira said the PPP was going to issue its ‘performance report’ shortly.