LAHORE  -   In a major blow to the Punjab government, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday took Punjab Senior Minister Aleem Khan into custody after he reportedly failed to satisfy authorities about sources of his income in connection with his offshore companies.

The minister will be produced before the accountability court on Thursday (today).

According to a press release issued by NAB, Aleem Khan was arrested for owning assets beyond his known sources of income.

Following his arrest, Aleem Khan tendered his resignation as Minister for Local Government and Community Development. Aleem Khan has sent his resignation to Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar instead of Punjab Governor as the latter is the competent authority to accept the resignation.

A press release issued by NAB said that inquiry conducted so far revealed sufficient evidence to prove involvement of Abdul Aleem Khan in the commission of offense as defined under section 9 (a) and schedule of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999. 

The NAB has also issued a long list of facts which, according to it, formed the basis of immediate arrest of Aleem Khan.

Giving grounds of Aleem Khan’s arrest, the NAB document said that Abdul Aleem Khan being the Secretary of Park View Housing Society and Minister of Information Technology [during 2002 to 2007] has been involved in the acts of corruption and corrupt practices as defined under section 9(a) of NAO, 1999 by way of accumulating assets beyond known sources of income within Pakistan and Outside.

It further stated that the accused established multiple companies with the purpose of real estate business and invested millions of rupees. The NAB has also accused the minister of buying more than 900 kanal land in different Mouzas of Lahore in the name of his company, MS A & A Limited and also paid advances for additional 600 kanals land for which he could not account for the sources of the said investments. The NAB documents further said that in 2005 and 2006, apart from the inland assets, Aleem established offshore companies in UAE and UK and these companies required assets of extensive value which are beyond known sources of income of the accused.

The anti-graft body fears that it was likely that the accused might temper with the prosecution evidence through coercion, criminal inducement and criminal intimidation

“Arrest of accused is necessary to unearth other assets which accused might hold in his ownership or in the ownership of his Benamidar and for the collection of evidence and conducting the inquiry and investigation in accordance with law”, it further stated. 

Meanwhile, Governor Punjab Mohammad Sarwar has said that PTI’s government was establishing rule of law and supremacy of constitution in this country. He said there was no political intervention in any institution and it was NAB’s responsibility to apprehend all those people who had looted public exchequer in the last 30 years.

“Aleem resigned from cabinet after being arrested. It’s the international standard of governance which we are bringing in Pakistan. He has set example for others too. Whenever NAB called, Aleem appeared whether he was in government or opposition,” he said after the meeting he chaired at the Governor House. It was attended by Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar and members of cabinet including Law Minister Muhammad Basharat Raja. Law minister reportedly briefed the meeting about the legal aspect of Aleem Khan’s case.  

The governor further stated that Aleem had made sacrifices for party and played pivotal role in party’s victory in general elections. “We are confident that he will get out of accountability with clean hands by proving his innocence in court of law,” he said, adding that PTI’s government had always talked about the rule of law and no one was above the law.

Also, while reacting to NAB’s press release, spokesperson to Aleem Khan said that matter of Park View Cooperative Housing Society was never mentioned till date in the investigations held so far. Spokesman further stated that Aleem had already added his assets and his name was not included in the list of Panama leaks. The spokesperson further clarified that Aleem attended all the call notices of NAB and provided all documents well in time as and when demanded. Commenting on minister’s arrest, his spokesperson said that it was questionable that all the record of offshore companies was lying abroad and how it could be tampered with by the minister. Similarly, the spokesperson added, the land indicated by NAB as owned by A&A company was sold out in 2006 for which all the money trail was also provided by Aleem Khan to NAB authorities. Spokesman said that apparently the arrest of Aleem had no logic but he had high regards for courts. The spokesperson hoped that justice would be done in Aleem’s case.

According to PTI sources, Prime Minister Imran Khan has appreciated Aleem‘s volunteer decision to resign saying that everything should be proceeded as per the law.

Also, DG NAB, Lahore, Shahzad Saleem said in a statement that NAB was taking steps in the best national interest and there was no concept of  likes and dislikes in his department.

He also said that operation will continue against corrupt elements indiscriminately as per vision of chairman NAB. He said that investigations by NAB into all mega corruption cases were underway in a transparent manner and all cases would be brought to their logical end as soon as possible.