The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has filed a corruption reference against two former Lieutenant Generals of the Pakistan Army. It has launched an inquiry into the assets of former President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf. The Chaudhrys of Gujrat, who still have close links with the establishment, have already appeared before the graft-busting institution at least thrice. These are really disturbing signs for politicians.
According to sources, lists have been complied of media house owners and journalists, who have been on the payroll of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Some say few media house owners and journalists receive money from parties abroad to advance their agendas in Pakistan. They have bought properties in the UK, the UAE and other countries. They are expected to be summoned by NAB in weeks. Fearing action, they have already toned down their voice and opinion of the establishment and the judiciary for which they are being paid by the ruling party. Many legislators have quit the PML-N and dozens are expected to leave it in weeks. Its fate will be sealed after former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s conviction in corruption, tax evasion and money laundering cases by May 31, the new deadline set by the Supreme Court of Pakistan for an Accountability Court to decide the cases.
Wary of NAB action, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has hinted at bringing about a law through an ordinance to suspend the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law during the interim period of the caretaker government. Talking to the media, he claimed he was not seeking relief for himself or his family. “The NAB law should be suspended because it is being used to pressurise politicians to change their loyalties. There should be a level playing field for all. When elections are due in few months, using the NAB law against politicians is unfortunate and Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar should take notice of it,” he said. It is said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had requested Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar to remove the time limit in verdicts in cases against Nawaz Sharif in a recent meeting. He said the cases against the Sharif family should be heard as normal cases until the formation of a caretaker government.
Nawaz Sharif wants to abolish the NAB law to bring permanent relief for himself and politicians, who are facing corruption cases. He is even willing to join hands with the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, who are also on the NAB radar. It is said he has contacted them recently and they have sought time to consider his proposal. He believes the Chaudhrys, for being close to the establishment, can help improve his relations with it and save him from corruption cases. It is said Nawaz Sharif has expressed his willingness to go to their residence and apologize to them over his past behaviour. However, the Chaudhrys think reconciliation with him at the time is futile, but they are sill considering the option.
Reacting to Nawaz Sharif’s allegations that NAB is attempting to manoeuver elections in the garb of accountability, the national graft-busting institution said it aimed to tarnish its image. “The allegations could not hinder NAB from working as per its defined mandate. The drop scene of the accountability drama (under former NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman) has already taken place. The real story based on facts has just started to unfold. Each and every individual involved in it will be exposed indiscriminately,” it said in a statement.
NAB has widened its scope and filed corruption references against former ISI Chief and Pakistan Railways Minister Lt. Gen. (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi, former Federal Minister for Communication and Railways Lt. Gen. (retd) Saeeduz Zafar, Maj. Gen. (retd) Hamid Hassan Butt, Brig. (retd) Akhtar Ali Baig and others in the Royal Palm Golf Club corruption case. In year 2001, the Pakistan Railway offered the lease of the Golf Club, Lahore, for a period of 33 years. During the bidding process, the lease period was illegally enhanced to 49 years instead of 33. Moreover, the land that was being offered was illegally increased from 103 acres to 140 acres by demolishing the Railway Officers Colony. It resulted in a loss of Rs 2 billion to the national exchequer. Former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudry’s son-in-law, the owner of the Eden Housing Scheme, has also been summoned. NAB is also investigating PML-N Khyber Pakhtunkhwa President Ameer Muqam, a close aide to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, for wealth beyond his known sources of income.
Almost all the top leadership of the PML-N is currently under investigation on corruption charges, including ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique. Peshawar District Nazim Mohammed Asim Khan is under investigation for misuse of funds and distributing money among loyal employees without fulfilling legal requirements. NAB is also probing the multi-billion Metro Train project in Lahore. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s son-in-law Ali Imran, has also been summoned with the record of his Lahore plaza. Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar is being probed for corruption. Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and his younger brother and Punjab Health Minister Khawaja Salman Rafique are in a serious trouble because there are reports that NAB has found details of their businesses and bank accounts in Thailand and Sri Lanka. NAB is also probing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) Ameer Maulana Fazlur Rehman over acquisition of 600 kanals illegally in Dera Ismail Khan during the Musharraf era.
Many arrests are expected in weeks. Most of them will be politicians and a large majority would be form the ruling party. The ruling party can also bring an ordinance to freeze the NAB law in the interim setup, but it cannot work. It will be challenged and set aside by the court as NAB is a constitutional and autonomous organisation and even the Supreme Court of Pakistan cannot stop it from working. It appears all corrupt politicians will be behind bars before or after the election and they would attempt to malign NAB for political gains.