ISLAMABAD   -   Proposing formation of a parliamentary committee to probe into charges against him, Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday alleged that an ‘unholy alliance between NAB and PTI’ was targeting the PML-N and other opposition parties.

Shehbaz, who is Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly as well as president of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, is currently in NAB custody in connection with Ashiana Housing Scheme scam.

Under the production order from the speaker, he was brought to the house yesterday to attend the assembly proceedings. The house witnessed desk-thumping and heavy sloganeering by the PML-N members as he entered the hall.

The main focus of the 5-hour-long session, summoned on the requisition submitted by the opposition, remained the arrest of the opposition leader by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The government and opposition also lightly discussed the suggestion of amending NAB laws.

“For the first time in parliamentary history of the country, the opposition leader was arrested without any charges in an absurd manner,” said Shehbaz Sharif while taking the floor with the onset of the proceedings.

“Order to arrest me was prepared in the dates between July 6 and July 13, but it was issued later,” he claimed, linking his arrest with the bye-elections. “Man proposes but God disposes,” the opposition leader remarked, referring to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s losing the seats vacated by it.

“I will not touch the merits of the case framed against me but will surely say it is unholy alliance between PTI and NAB which is targeting my party and [other parties of] opposition,” said Shehbaz.

Terming his arrest as an expression of ‘fascism’, he warned that if it was fascism “then the character behind it should also keep in mind fate of Hitler and Mussolini”.

The former Punjab chief minister said he was kept in a small room having no ventilation or even sunlight. “[But] I have come here not to share my ordeal, as we have already seen these difficult alleys in the past,” he said, inviting a clamour from treasury benches.

About the NAB trial, the PML-N president said that he had faced volley of questions from NAB officials on Ashiana Housing Scheme. “I was conveyed that there were no corruption charges against me,” he said.

Shehbaz Sharif said that there was a charge against him of making an attempt to award the contract of a Rs1.5 billion project to Major (r) Kamaran Kiani - who owns a construction company - only to placate the then army chief. He argued that how he could award such contract to Kiani when he had cancelled Rs35 billion contract for construction of ‘Ring Road’ in Lahore for slow progress on the project.

“At that time, I had shared that matter with the then army chief General Ashfaq Kiani when Major (r) Kamran Kiani did not comply with my order to speed up the project. Ultimately, I cancelled that contract,” he said, lauding the attitude of then army chief for not complaining against the cancellation of the contract.

The opposition leader also mentioned that he was issued a notice in the case of ‘Saf Paani’ but arrested in the case related to Ashiana Housing Scheme.

Sharing the questions posed by NAB officials, Shehbaz said one of those questions was about his alleged ownership of businesses in China and Turkey.

“I propose the House to form a committee on it [for investigation]. If found guilty, I will prefer to leave politics,” he said.

This question made it clear that there was an unholy alliance between NAB and PTI, as Imran Khan had levelled the same accusation several times, he said.

PML-N leader said that the investigation officer (Aftab) had also offered him to become approver against his party colleague Khawaja Asif. “I told him I am here to respond to questions about my case and not become approver against anyone,” he added.

He alleged that Pervaiz Elahi as Punjab chief minister had altered the ‘Ring Road’ project and committed corruption of billions of rupees.

Shehbaz Sharif thanked National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser for summoning National Assembly session on opposition’s requisition and issuing production orders enabling him to attend the proceedings. He also thanked PPPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and other opposition members.

He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan was a product of rigging.

Responding to Shehbaz Sharif, Law Minister Farogh Naseem said that the house could not debate a matter pending before a court.

“Section-36 of NAB Ordinance forbids constitution of any such committee of the parliament [as proposed by Shehbaz],” he said. He clarified, “NAB is an independent institution and did what it did without any interference from the government.”

PPPP central leader Khursheed Shah, taking the floor, lauded the speaker for playing a neutral role in the session. About the law minister’s argument, he said that matter of law and constitution could be discussed in the parliament.

Shah, who is a former Opposition Leader in NA, said this was the first time in parliamentary history that a sitting Leader of Opposition had been arrested.

Responding to the concerns raised by the opposition members, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry offered amendments in the NAB laws.

“It is not appropriate to summon NAB chairman before a parliamentary committee to answer questions,” he said, discouraging Shehbaz Sharif’s proposal to form a committee to probe charges against him.

Chaudhry also said that expenditures of one National Assembly session will be Rs100 million.

He said that PTI had not appointed even a single clerk in the NAB and no case was initiated against the opposition members by the ruling party.

He also asked if the PML-N supported pursuing Asghar Khan Case.

PML-N central leader Khawaja Asif warned the government against repeating their (PML-N and PPPP) mistakes of indulging in politics of revenge.

“The politics of revenge had created a space which was then occupied by other forces,” he said, supporting the idea of information minister for deliberating to make amendments in NAB laws.

Housing Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema, on his turn, criticised the previous government for not starting the projects of PML-Q government. He lauded the patriotism of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

BNP (Mengal) chief Akhtar Mengal said that there was need of accountability for those involved in violation of the constitution.

“The scope of accountability should be expanded as those involved in damaging country should be made accountable,” he said, criticising the NAB chairman, who is also heading the commission on missing persons, for not taking proper measures for recovery of missing persons.

JUI-F’s Asad Mehmood also criticised the PTI government for allegedly using negative tactics in both general and the bye-elections. “This government seems to be a NAB spokesman,” he said.

 

SHEHBAZ BACK IN NAB LAHORE CUSTODY

 

Staff Reporter from Lahore adds: Shehbaz Sharif was brought back to Lahore after his participation in the National Assembly session in Islamabad on Wednesday.

He was shifted to the NAB interrogation centre.

On Wednesday, CAA officers at AIIAP were advised to make arrangements for VIP movement. A letter speaks, “NAB operation team along with a high profile accused Mian Shehbaz Sharif is arriving from Islamabad by PK-655 at 2030 hrs today (17.10.2018) as informed by NAB office. Duty vigilance officer has been advised to allow the following vehicles in VIP lane -1: LEG 01 7700- V8; PH- 8786 V8; LEG-1025 Vigo; LEG-4434 Cultus. All concerned have been informed in this regard”.

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