Monday, December 23, 2019
By Munir Ahmed
Pakistan’s anti-corruption body arrested a prominent opposition leader on Monday who has been a vocal critic of the prime minister.
Ahsan Iqbal was arrested hours after he publicly described Prime Minister Imran Khan as the country’s “biggest beggar.” He said Khan has failed to improve Pakistan’s ailing economy despite getting billions of dollars in new loans from the IMF and other countries.
Ahsan Iqbal served as interior minister in the government of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was himself removed from office in 2017 over corruption allegations, and sentenced to prison the following year.
Iqbal was arrested Monday after he appeared before the National Accountability Bureau. He was being questioned about alleged corruption in the construction of a sports stadium several years ago in his constituency in the eastern Punjab province.
Maryam Aurangzeb, a spokeswoman for Iqbal’s political party, called his arrest “political victimization” and said he was detained “because he refused to stop criticizing Imran Khan.” She said the party will continue to push for Khan’s resignation.
Iqbal’s arrest was yet another addition to the long list of politicians from opposition parties who have been arrested on corruption charges since Khan took office. He campaigned in last year’s election on promises to stamp out governmental corruption.
Khan’s predecessor, Sharif, got a seven-year prison sentence in 2018 for corruption and money laundering. However, his health has recently deteriorated, and he’s currently receiving medical treatment in London after being released on bail earlier this month.
In June, Khan’s government arrested former President Asif Ali Zardari in connection with a money laundering case. But a court freed him earlier this month on bail, also on medical grounds.
Sharif and Zardari are longtime political rivals but their parties have vowed to oust Khan’s government, citing increasing inflation and a spike in the price of essential foods.
Addressing a news conference in Karachi, the PPP leader refused to appear before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Rawalpindi on December 24 (Tuesday), adding the notice served to him by the anti-corruption watchdog is “unconstitutional and illegal”.
“I am not afraid of being detained, but will speak more aggressively if an attempt made to arrest me,” Bilawal cautioned.
The PPP leader alleged that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was targeting opposition political leaders, adding that anti-corruption watchdog was defaming politicians through baseless allegations.
It must be noted that the NAB Rawalpindi has summoned the party chairman in a fake accounts probe for JV-Opal-225, a joint venture of Zardari Group Ltd.
The PPP chairman has been asked to appear before the NAB Rawalpindi office on December 24 (Tuesday) at 11:00 am.
According to sources, the Opal-225 (referred in tax record is a joint investment of Zardari Group Ltd) was initiated on October 15, 2011. In 2009, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and his father became shareholders of the company.
Allegedly, billions of rupees were transferred to the company’s accounts via fake bank accounts. The company took out loans of billions of rupees from the banks.
Fake Bank Accounts Case
The anti-graft watchdog is conducting investigations in pursuance of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the fake accounts case wherein it forwarded the joint investigation team (JIT) report with directions to investigate and file references.Former president Asif Ali Zardari, chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, his aunt Faryal Talpur, former chief minister Qaim Ali Shah, provincial minister Anwar Siyal, others are among as many as 172 accused in the fake accounts case.The Islamabad High Court (IHC) had granted bail to the former president and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on medical grounds.
A two-member special bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) comprising Chief Justice IHC, Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Aamir Farooq heard the bail plea of Asif Ali Zardari seeking his release on medical grounds.
The Islamabad High Court (IHC), in its December 17 judgment, had also approved the interim bail of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) central leader Faryal Talpur in fake bank accounts case. https://arynews.tv/en/not-afraid-of-arrest-says-bilawal-bhutto/