NAB arrests Shehbaz Sharif in Ashiana Housing Scheme case

LAHORE: Former Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the Ashiana Housing Scheme case.

Sharif who is the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly was arrested when he appeared before NAB to record his statement in the Saaf Pani case.
“The National Accountability Bureau Lahore has arrested former Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif in the Ashiana Company case. NAB will produce Shehbaz Sharif in an accountability court today [Saturday],” a press release issued by the bureau said.

NAB had summoned Shehbaz to appear before it at 11am today and was arrested when he appeared at the bureau’s office later during the day to record his statement.

According to reports, following are the allegations levelled against Shehbaz Sharif
  1. As chief minister, Shehbaz Sharif transferred the Ashiana Scheme project from PLDC to LDA
  2. Ordered for the project to be transferred back from LDA to PLDC
  3.  Illegally ordered for the project to be transferred to Paragon and then kept it in Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode.
  4. Interfered in board affairs and took measures in violation of the law. Illegally cancelled the contract of Lateef Sons in 2013.

According to official, Shehbaz was arrested after Fawad Hasan Fawad, the then implementation secretary, told NAB that he carried out corrupt activities in projects in Punjab over orders from Shehbaz, who was the chief minister then. NAB had also received information from Fawad Hasan’s laptop, from which data was retrieved after his arrest.
In the investigation that followed, Fawad Hasan and Shehbaz appeared together, during which the latter said he would bring proof. Subsequently, NAB granted time to Shehbaz to gather proof, but he could not produce anything. Therefore, the anti-graft body summoned him today in Saaf Pani Company case, which is one of the 56 companies being investigated.
However, Shehbaz was arrested for carrying out corrupt activates in Ashiana Iqbal Company case, in which former Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Khawaja Salman Rafique are also involved and have been summoned on October 16. Sources said Khawaja Saad and Salman Rafique’s arrest is also expected.

Arrest made without NA speaker permission: PML-N

The PML-N Parliamentary Party said Shehbaz Sharif’s arrest was made without seeking the permission of the National Assembly speaker.
In a statement, the PML-N Parliamentary Party said that the “unfortunate history of using NAB against political opponents was being repeated.”
The statement added that Shehbaz Sharif had dedicated his life to the prosperity of the nation.
“This arrest which took place close to the by-elections shows that the government is scared of the PML-N.”

‘Shehbaz’s is the first of several prominent arrests’

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Shehbaz’s was the first of several prominent arrests which would be made.
The minister emphasised that the process of accountability would move forward and the government had a zero tolerance policy towards corruption.

While speaking with reporters the minister stressed that the government was neutral and NAB was an independent institution.

“The government is neutral in this entire matter but we want accountability for those people who have robbed the country. This is an important step towards that accountability,” he said.

Further, Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan said, “The services of the former provincial chief minister are bearing fruit now.”
“All members of the former government involved in corruption will soon be behind bars,” he added. “The nation will from now on keep hearing good news,” Chohan further said.

Khursheed Shah condemns Shehbaz’s arrest

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Khursheed Shah condemned the arrest of Shehbaz Sharif calling it an insult to Parliament.
“The government should avoid politics of revenge and is taking such steps due to the failure of its 100-day program,” Shah said.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was asked about the arrest but did not comment.

“I wouldn’t want to comment without reading the case and want to leave it at that,” Bilawal told reporters during a news conference.

The case

Last month, Shehbaz Sharif was summoned by NAB in the Ashiana Housing case while former Lahore Development Authority chairman Ahad Cheema is on judicial remand after having been arrested over the case.
In July, the accountability bureau arrested senior bureaucrat Fawad Hassan Fawad in various corruption cases, including the Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme case.
That the Shehbaz had been summoned in the case after revelations made by Fawad during interrogation.
According to NAB officials, Fawad wrongfully awarded the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme’s contract to ‘favourites’, illegally ordered the shifting of nine CNG stations and also worked in a private bank from 2005 to 2006 without official permission.
Moreover, while being the provincial health secretary, Fawad acquired six mobile health units which were purchased at a higher-than-market rate, a NAB spokesperson said.
Fawad has served as former PM Nawaz Sharif’s principal secretary and is considered close to the former premier. He was removed from the post of principal secretary on June 1 this year and was appointed director general of Civil Services Academy, Lahore.
The accused bureaucrat was also being probed by NAB for possession of assets beyond known sources of income.
According to NAB, the contract for the housing scheme was won by a construction company titled Chaudhry Latif and Sons.
However, NAB says then Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his aides awarded the Rs14 billion contract to Lahore Casa Developers — a proxy group of Paragon City (Pvt) Limited, which is said to be owned by Railways Minister Saad Rafique.
Fawad, who was implementation secretary to the chief minister Punjab at the time, levelled charges of wrongdoings against Chaudhry Latif and Sons in order for the contract to be awarded to Casa Developers.