Forestry Minister Sibtain remanded into NAB's custody for 10-days

An accountability court in Lahore on Saturday granted 10-day physical remand of Punjab’s erstwhile minister for Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Sibtain Khan to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

NAB has been directed to produce the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker before the court on June 25.

Khan was arrested by the anti-corruption watchdog yesterday in connection with a corruption case pertaining to alleged corruption and illegal award of contracts. He tendered his resignation earlier today.

In a letter to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Khan said that while he will contest the case “on merits [and] in accordance with law”.

“However, in the meantime, per the propriety and political responsibility [sic], I feel morally obliged to to tender my resignation as a minister in your cabinet.”

According to NAB, Khan had in July 2007, as the Punjab Minister for Mines and Minerals, been involved in the illegal award of a multi-billion-rupee contract for 500 metric tonnes of iron ore in Rajwah and Chiniot to a company of his choice called Earth Resource Pvt Ltd (ERPL), a statement released by NAB said yesterday.

The award of contract, which deviated from existing laws, was awarded to ERPL in connivance with other suspects, the statement alleged. The company was awarded the contract despite not having previous experience in mining.

According to the Punjab Mines Department, no other company was considered during the bidding process for the contract, NAB Lahore had alleged.

During today’s hearing in the accountability court, NAB said that the company ERPL was not registered. The company had a capital of Rs2.5 million and the documents provided to show that were also fake, NAB told the court.

NAB’s lawyer further alleged that the accused had not issued any tender before granting the venture to ERPL.

Meanwhile, Khan’s counsel insisted that NAB was not telling the “complete truth” to the court. He said that NAB had ended the inquiry because as per its report — which was submitted in the Lahore High Court — the national treasury had not suffered any loss from the contract.

Khan argued that he had received a request and had forwarded to relevant departments after which “his role [in the matter] ended”.

He said that NAB had not arrested anyone else involved in the matter and demanded that the anti-corruption body should take everyone who had signed off on the venture into custody.