Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special assistant on accountability, Shahzad Akbar, on Saturday said that former premier Nawaz Sharif had left the country for treatment on certain conditions and that none of these had been fulfilled, as the National Accountability Bureau stepped up efforts to continue proceedings in the two cases against him.
NAB has filed an appeal in the Islamabad High Court for Nawaz’s seven-year imprisonment sentence in the Al Azizia Steel Mills case to be extended to 14 years. The case will be heard by Justices Amir Farooq and Mohsin Akhtar Kayani on September 1.
Furthermore, a hearing against Nawaz’s acquittal in the Flagship Investments case will also be held that same day, for which another appeal was filed by NAB.
Akbar, while addressing a press conference in Lahore, said that Nawaz was permitted to get medical treatment from abroad subject to returning within the stipulated time frame. Secondly, he was bound to submit his periodical medical reports and updates on his treatment to the court and the Punjab government.
Akbar claimed that Nawaz had submitted “no such report” to either the court or the Punjab government.
Retracing the decisions taken at the time, he said that on October 29, 2019, the PML-N supremo was granted bail by the Islamabad High Court for eight weeks on medical grounds in the Al Azizia case.
“The bail was given on the condition that after eight weeks, in case he does not recover, the Punjab government will take up the matter under CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) and conduct a proper hearing,” Akbar said.
After that, on November 16, Shehbaz Sharif filed an undertaking in Lahore High Court that Nawaz will return to Pakistan after the required medical procedures, he said.
Subsequently, on December 23, after the eight-week bail had expired, Nawaz had appealed to the Punjab government for an extension in his bail, Akbar said.
“Because the bail was granted on medical grounds, the Punjab government constituted another medical board. The board demanded fresh reports of Nawaz’s treatment in London,” he said, adding that the board was not satisfied with the reports as the PML-N supremo had “not even been administered an injection” over there.
The medical board had then recommended that he should not be given an extension in bail.
After that, three hearings took place this year, on February 19, 20, and 21, where his lawyer, doctor, and members of his party, appeared to submit the documents validating Nawaz’s health condition.
On February 27, the Punjab home department passed a decision rejecting the extension in bail, demanding that Nawaz return to Pakistan immediately and surrender himself to the authorities.
Highlighting the importance of the home department’s decision, he said that Nawaz, through his counsel, had filed an application in the Islamabad High Court claiming that he had not received the government’s decision.
Akbar said that the PML-N had, in fact, received the decision. “I have brought this order with me so that someone may send it to him.”
The order has also been sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the direction that a letter be sent to the British government — where Nawaz is currently residing.
The letter was then sent on March 2 stating that Nawaz’s bail had expired and that he should be repatriated.
Akbar said that recently, on August 18, the IHC declared Nawaz “an absconder” as his bail had expired. “The federal government has decided to take matters forward with the help of NAB,” the premier’s aide said.
“This dual standard of accountability cannot take place in Pakistan as common people who hardly get parole, return [to serve their sentence] and Nawaz — who has been disqualified for life by the Supreme Court and found guilty in two cases — is enjoying his life in London.”
Akbar said that this was not a personal vendetta and that it was the government’s objective to uphold the writ of law.
“The legal standing of the undertaking that Shehbaz had submitted will also be probed as he is responsible for ensuring Nawaz’s return,” Akbar said.
Referring to Nawaz Sharif’s seven-year-imprisonment sentence in the Al Azizia Steel Mills case, Akbar said that the former premier “will not be able to enter practical politics for the next seven centuries even”.
“You have been declared disqualified for life. Your picture can be up on a wall but you will never be able to enter politics,” he said, addressing Nawaz.
Speaking of Britain, he said that Pakistan has an agreement with the country for the “exchange of criminals”.
“The law is the same everywhere for criminals,” he said, adding that a “criminal” such as Nawaz can be likened to one that has broken out of jail and run off.
He said that NAB is the institution that will pursue Nawaz’s case as it falls within its jurisdiction.
Speaking further on Nawaz’s stay in London, he said that the former premier’s political activism goes only as far as Oxford Street. He said his daughter Maryam Nawaz’s participation is limited to Twitter.
The premier’s aide also spoke of Ishaq Dar, also declared an absconder by an accountability court in 2017 and who is currently residing in London.
“We won’t let go of Ishaq Dar either. We will bring him back,” he said, adding that Nawaz’s children will also be brought back.
Addressing Shehbaz, he said the PML-N president “is free nowadays and should appear before NAB”.
Akbar said that the relevant institutions have stepped up efforts to prosecute Jahangir Tareen and Salman Shehbaz. “If these people resist against being a part of the probe, we will issue red warrants against them,” he added.
‘PM won’t even give the ‘N’ of NRO’
Talking about “NRO plus plus” — a reference to the opposition’s proposed amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO-1999) — Akbar said Imran Khan won’t even give the “N” of “NRO plus plus” to the opposition, urging the opposition to stop making a joke out of the legislation.
He said that Pakistan was in danger of moving from the Financial Action Task Force’s “grey list” to “black list”.
“If Pakistan were to be pushed into that list, we would become like Iraq and Iran after the wars. We wouldn’t even be able to import medicines [due to the sanctions imposed].”
Akbar stressed that the matter was crucial and that when the government had come into power it took the matter “very seriously”.
Akbar said that after receiving a list of recommendations from the FATF, a civil servant had been appointed as Director-General FATF and with him in charge, institutions such as the Counter Terrorism Department, State Bank, Federal Investigation Agency, National Accountability Bureau, ministries, and provincial government were involved to address the FATF issue.
The premier’s aide, speaking on how the country had been placed on the grey list, said that the FATF had noted that Pakistan did not have a good enough system to tackle money laundering.
“How could have this been possible when the country’s ruling elite themselves were involved in this menace,” he said.
Supporting his claim, he gave the reference of the fake accounts case filed against Asif Zardari, and the various cases against the sugar mills implicating other opposition leaders.
“All the watchdogs were made non-functional and an institutional capture took place that was noted by the international forum,” he said, adding that the government took the measures recommended by the FATF.
Akbar said that PTI views money laundering as a serious offence while the opposition did not consider the crime “serious”.
Talking about why the bills — for fighting money laundering in the country — have to be approved with unanimity, he said that it was a “national cause”.
“The biggest bottleneck is money laundering, as the opposition is asking us to not bring the crime under serious offences,” he said, adding that the government could not do that, even for a second.
The opposition wants the government to grant them “NRO plus plus”, which is not possible. “The entire world is fighting against money laundering […] I urge opposition to think beyond the cases filed against their leaders.”
Meanwhile, the premier’s aide on political communication Shahbaz Gill claimed that when Nawaz’s blood was given to the laboratory for testing, then there is a specific way — “by providing less blood than the required amount” — to reduce the platelets.
“Nawaz cheated the doctors as well,” he said.
“Doctors are not to be blamed, the reports were forged,” Gill added.