ISLAMABAD - While the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has resolved not to “backtrack from its anti-corruption agenda to purge the country of this menace”, majority of political leadership from opposition parties celebrates this Eidul Azha in jails.

The senior political leadership includes a former president, two ex-prime ministers, former federal ministers besides many sitting members of the Senate, the National Assembly and provincial assemblies.

In the chequered political history of the country, this is one of the rare incidents that such a large number of politicians of opposition are celebrating their Eid, the holy festival of Muslims, in prisons. While many other face fear of arrest soon after the celebrations of Eid, political observers claim.

Opposition claims that the alleged corruption cases instituted against them by the National Accountability Bureau are part of the political victimisation of the ruling party which is hand in glove with the country’s top anti-corruption watchdog.

The Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government however blames the past rulers including of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of the present economic crisis and the ballooned foreign debts, the country is facing. PM Khan has more than once said that it would move ahead with its anti-corruption drive at any cost and no safe exit like National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), offered by then military ruler General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf to political parties, would be given to the past rulers—an assertion that has denied by opposition parties. The opposition says that it has never sought any NRO like deal from PTI-led government.

They include Asif Zardari, Faryal Talpur, Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Khwaja Saad Rafique, Hamza Shehbaz, Agha

Siraj Durrani

Among the opposition leaders facing jail, thrice former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and ex-premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi are on the top of the list. Mr Sharif, a veteran of PML-N, is serving seven years sentence in Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference. On December 24, 2018, an accountability court convicted him in this reference filed in wake of the apex court’s July 28, 2017 order in Panama Papers case.

Mr Abbasi, also a senior PML-N leader, is in the custody of NAB while he is facing misuse of power and corruption charges in a case pertaining to import of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Chairman Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and former President Asif Ali Zardari is also facing jail as he is in the custody of NAB for his alleged involvement in money laundering through alleged fake accounts case. His sister and PPP leader Faryal Talpur, a member of the Sindh Assembly, is also in the custody of the bureau in the same case.

Another senior PPP leader and Speaker Sindh Assembly Agha Siraj Durrani is in jail since February this year when NAB arrested him form a hotel in Islamabad in a case of allegedly accumulating assets beyond his known sources of income had embezzlement of public money.

Vice president PML-N Maryam Nawaz was arrested by NAB earlier this week while she was visiting her imprisoned father in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail and she is facing probe of the bureau in Chaudhry Sugar Mills corruption case—a sugar production unit owned by his family.

On June 11, 2019, NAB had arrested nephew of former PM Nawaz Sharif and leader of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly, Hamza Shahbaz, after the Lahore High Court dismissed his bail petitions in two inquiries regarding money laundering as well as accumulation of assets beyond known means and the Ramzan Sugar Mills.

Another PML-N stalwart and former Punjab law minister Rana Sanullah is also in jail as he is facing trial of a court in narcotics smuggling case.

Other PML-N stalwarts and former federal and provincial ministers are also in the list. Since December last year, former federal minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Khawaja Salamn Rafique, former provincial minister, are facing jails in a private housing society scam.

Earlier this week, NAB arrested former Finance Minister of last PML-N government Miftah Ismail in LNG case.

In February this year, PML-N Senator and former ports and shipping minister Kamran Michael is facing jail in a case pertaining to alleged misuse of power and misappropriation of public funds.

The PTI member provincial assembly and Minister of Punjab for Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Mohammad Sibtain Khan is also in the custody of NAB in a corruption case.

Some private TV channels have reported that Chairman NAB Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal has approved arrest of former Punjab sports minister Rana Mashood in a corruption case.