NAB cases against Nawaz, family reopened

Posted: September 2, 2008 in Political
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The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) seem to be heading towards a repeat of the early ‘90s. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), recently taken over by Law Minister Farooq H Naek, has reopened three corruption cases against Nawaz Sharif within 10 days of the PML-N leaving the coalition.

According to reports, the NAB has sought the reopening of the corruption cases pending against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his brother Shahbaz Sharif and other members of the Sharif family. The cases include those concerning the Hudabia Papers Mills, Ittefaq Foundries and Raiwind Farms.

NAB prosecutor-general Dr Danishwar Malik filed a petition with the Court of Special Judge Central (SJC) (Rawalpindi) Shaukat Ali Sajid on Tuesday, as there was no judge present in the accountability courts at present.

The three corruption references in the Hudaibia Paper Mills, Ittefaq Foundries and Raiwind farms cases against Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and other family members were adjourned for an indefinite period by the accountability court on Aug 21.

The SJC fixed Thursday for initial hearing of the cases. The prosecutor stated in his application that the Aug 21 order of the accountability court about the postponement of the cases was based on the observation that the earlier submission of NAB for the re-opening of these cases in August last year was not duly signed by the bureau chairman. He said the previous submission was made by the deputy prosecutor-general as a competent authority and the point that it was not signed by the NAB chairman was not relevant. He said the bureau wants to initiate the proceedings pending against the accused.

In the Hudaibia Paper Mills case, besides Mian Nawaz Sharif, the other co-accused include Mian Shahbaz Sharif, Mian Abbas Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Haroon Pasha and Senator Ishaq Dar. The accused were charged with securing huge amounts as loan in the name of Hudaibia Paper Mills and later using the loan for some other purpose, thus causing a huge loss to the national exchequer.

In the Ittefaq Foundry reference, Mian Nawaz Sharif, Abbas Sharif, Mukhtar Hassan, Kamal Qureshi and a few other persons were accused of securing and abusing huge loans, causing a loss of millions to the national exchequer.

Similarly, in the Raiwind assets reference, the accused include Mian Nawaz Sharif, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, their late father Mian Sharif, mother Shamim Akhtar and other family members. In the reference, the Sharifs are accused of accumulating a large sum of money and assets beyond their declared means of income by allegedly misusing their authority.

According to the official spokesman of NAB, an application was filed in the NAB court in Rawalpindi on Aug 2, 2007, for reopening of the cases against Nawaz Sharif but it lingered in the court because of technical objections. “Today (Tuesday) the court decided to reopen the cases,” said the spokesman.

The cases are being reopened when Nawaz Sharif’s party has nominated Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui as candidate against Asif Ali Zardari for the top slot of the countryand Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Manzoor Hussain Wattoo have been accused of being active in trying to destabilise the Punjab government.

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani while answering a question at a press conference at the Lahore Airport regarding the reopening of corruption cases against the Sharif family said, “NAB has no worth.”

Pervaiz Rashid, adviser to the Punjab chief minister, told The News that cases of this type were being opened and closed for the last 20 years. “We are neither worried about the opening of such cases nor are we happy over their closure,” said the PML-N leader, adding: “Those who think that they could dictate to us are living in a fool’s paradise.”

He said though the timing of the reopening of the cases against the PML-N leaders was noteworthy, those who were doing so were mistaken. “Whether or not the ground is being paved for a confrontation, neither do we take dictation nor would we accept it from anyone.”

PPP spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar said the PPP has been saying since day one that it does not accept NAB as it has been used for political motives. He said he was not aware of the reopening of cases against the Sharif brothers.

The role of Governor Salman Taseer right from the time he assumed his office is coming under serious scrutiny and many accuse him of setting the stage for confrontation in the Punjab. According to the PML-N, the recent acts of the governor were a repetition of the 1988 strategy when the representatives of the federal government had summoned and later removed the Punjab chief secretary and the inspector general of police and issued similar orders to them against the provincial administration headed by Nawaz Sharif.

At the time, the PPP had also attempted to oust Nawaz Sharif through a vote of no-confidence but failed. Agencies add: Meanwhile, NAB spokesman Ghazni Khan while taking to a private TV channel said the earlier hearing of these references against Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had been adjourned sine die due to his absence from the country.

Deputy Prosecutor General Zulfiqar Bhutta submitted the application in court, which has been accepted for trial, the spokesman maintained. They were old cases and now NAB has filed an application to reopen them because Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is in the country, he said.

Khwaja Haris, the lawyer of Nawaz Sharif, termed the move politically motivated, as the presidential race grew increasingly testy. “It appears to be aimed at using the accountability courts against Nawaz Sharif,” the lawyer said.”It appears to be used for political ends.”

Sharif aide Ahsan Iqbal said pursuing the cases smacked of “political bankruptcy. Sometimes, if you cannot get things done politically, then you try to blackmail the opposition,” he told a private TV channel. “I would still hope that the ruling party would refrain from such tactics,” he said.

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