SAJID ZIA

LAHORE - About a month has passed since the alleged bribe scandal of Punjab Law Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan surfaced in the media but nothing has been made public by the three-member Committee set up to probe the matter.

The scandal of alleged acceptance of about Rs6million by the Law minister from a business tycoon and absconder, Malik Asim, in the name of Punjab sitting CM, Shahbaz Sharif, was aired on a private TV channel on August 13 which rolled down serious waves of shock and surprise among the public at large and the political stratum.

The telecast of video ran diametrically contrary to the tall claims of Punjab government about corruption free governance, observance of strict merit and transparency in the appointment of ministers and the high profile civil servants. As the PTI and the PAT were quite poised to embark upon a long march against the PML-N and bashing of the incumbent government on Model Town killings and election rigging was on at top gear, surfacing of this alleged bribe scandal featured quite an embarrassment for the Punjab CM and the N-leadership.

Reacting immediately over the matter, Shahbaz Sharif set up a committee headed by PML-N Chairman Senator Raja Zafarul Haq and comprising of Senator Malik Muhammad Rafiq Rajwana and Punjab Minister Begum Zakya Shahnawaz to look into the charges within a week and file a report. The Committee, since then, has met once, however, without bringing forth any outcome while the timeframe of one week has passed since long.

When a question was put on a member of the Committee regarding any progress in the probe, Shahbaz sounded quite tight-lipped and trying to brush the matter under the carpet, saying it was internal matter of the party and nothing can be made public about it.

However, it has been learnt that the Committee has met once since its formation and is due to meet again as soon as a relaxation comes through from the ongoing protests of PAT and PTI in Islamabad. It is also learnt that Rana Mashhood, who vehemently denies all charges against him, has also given his preliminary point of view on the charges while the Committee is likely to hear him personally in the next meeting.

In the background that the demand for getting resignation from Rana Mashhood by his political opponents got rife, he more than once clarified his position before the media and the people. Mashood, on August 26, also served a legal notice on the anchorman of the programme, wherein he has sought apology within a month otherwise face defamation suit. In the notice, the minister has explained that the whole content of the video report is concocted and a misrepresentation of the facts purported to malign him. The video episode also mentions the name of Shahbaz Sharif, Salman Shahbaz.

Before the media, Mashhood made out the point that the video content was made up of more than 40 different clips which were edited to fabricate a story of accepting bribe from Asim Malik, who is now out of country after the FIA took up inquiry against him for depriving the people of billions of rupees. Mashood says the allegations leveled against him already stand examined by the Superior Judiciary which found nothing against him, adding that his meetings with Malik “were in connection with his mediation for the recovery of Rs4million.”