LAHORE - Adviser to Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Barrister Mirza Shahzad Akbar on Wednesday said that PML Nawaz leader Maryam Nawaz rigged the NA-120 by-elections in 2017 by distribution of Rs 2.5 billion under umbrella of development schemes, violating Election Commission of Pakistan’s rules’ and regulations for by polls.

Addressing a press conference along with Punjab Minister for Health Dr Yasmin Rashid at Press Information Department (PID) Office here, he said that Maryam Nawaz Sharif had managed funds of rupees 2.5 billion from then PML-N federal government and initiated various development schemes by Traffic Engineering and Transport Planning Agency (TEPA) in a bid to rig the NA-120 by elections, adding that Maryam Nawaz had violated the ECP’s rules and regulations, pertaining to ban on development schemes besides allocation of funds for any purpose in the constituency during polls.

Shehzad Akbar said that Maryam Nawaz along with Fawad Hassan Fawad had used the TEPA to disburse the funds for influencing the polls, adding that cash payments were made to the third party for completing development schemes and later the ground working including tendering and other formalities were completed.

The funds of Sustainable Development Goals were used in rigging of NA-120 by elections, which were released by the PML-N federal government in August, September and October 2017, he added.

The Adviser said that these facts and finding were surfaced during an inquiry by Anti Corruption

so that it had been decided to forward this case to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) pertaining to plundering tax payers’ money for electoral rigging. The case was being sent to the NAB as a huge amount of  Rs 2.5 billion was involved in this case, he maintained.

It had also been admitted by the Engineer and Sub Engineer of NESPAK in writing that they were pressurized by then PML-N government including its leader Maryam Nawaz to distribute the funds even in cash besides approving the uplift schemes during NA-120 by-polls, Shehzad Akbar asserted.

He said that the government would also send a reference to the ECP about such rigging for rectification of record, adding that all the evidences and facts collected by the Anti Corruption Department proved that PML-N had found guilty of rigging in NA-120 by polls.

To a question, Shehzad Akbar said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) came into power after struggle of 22 years so it was not possible that it would halt opposition’s protest but the protest should be peaceful, adding that it was responsibility of provincial and district administration to allow or restrict any call for protest by any political party. The federal government has nothing to do with giving permissions for political protests, he asserted.

To another query regarding statement of Marriyum Aurangzeb, he said such acts demonstrated character of the PML-N, adding that Shahbaz Sharif should tell about Manzoor ‘paparwala’ whose bank account was used for money laundering of millions of dollars. He also cited the statement of Shahbaz Sharif in which he blamed the NAB of mistreatment. 

Responding to a question, the Advisor said that Maryam Nawaz remained silent for about eight months as she wanted NRO to go London but after not getting the NRO, she started criticizing the government and other institutions. Addressing on the occasion, Dr Yasmin Rashid said that she had submitted about 32 petitions attached with a number of evidences to the ECP to inquire about the funds utilized in the constituency during NA-120 by polls, adding now the inquiry of anti corruption had proved her right. She said that “We have moved to the Lahore High Court pertaining to this matter”, adding that Maryam Nawaz was involved in exploiting the by election of NA-120 and now she was raising a slogan of ‘vote ko izzat do’.

The minister said that COVID-19 cases’ trend was observed as upward so it was needed to implement new SOPs regarding it, developed by the Health department, adding that opposition could stage protests and political gatherings but they should observe the COVID-19 SOPs as it was responsibility of the government to get the SOPs implemented for protecting the lives of people.

Dr Yasmin Rashid said that if the COVID-19 cases’ trend would remain at increasing side, the government could think of imposing lockdown again, which can further affect the economy and peoples’ social life so the opposition should think about the health of people in prevailing situation.