South Asia

Pakistan Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif Arrested for Two Corruption Cases

The arrest was made days before crucial by-elections are to be held in Punjab.

Lahore: Shahbaz Sharif, Pakistan’s opposition leader, was arrested on Friday for his alleged involvement in two corruption cases by the country’s anti-graft body.

Shahbaz, 67, is the younger brother of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and was arrested days before crucial by-elections are to be held.

“Shahbaz Sharif on Friday appeared before an investigation team of the National Accountability Bureau, Lahore. He was arrested after he failed to satisfy the investigator for his alleged role in awarding contracts to his favourite firm in violations of rules in the Ashiana Housing scheme and Punjab Saaf Pani Company,”National Accountability Bureau (NAB) spokesperson Nawazish Ali Asim told PTI.

Shahbaz was allegedly involved in the corruption of Rs 14 billion Ashiana Housing project and Rs 4 billion Punjab Saaf Pani Company scams.

According to PTI, the Saaf Pani Company was established to design and manage safe drinking water projects in terms of both access and quality, to communities living in rural areas. The project was undertaken by the previous Punjab government led by Shahbaz Sharif.

Shahbaz’s son-in-law Ali Imran Yousuf is also facing corruption inquiries in this case. He has fled to the UK and the NAB has written to the interior ministry to bring him back from abroad through Interpol.

Shahbaz’s son Hamza has also been probed by the NAB for presiding over the company’s board of directors meetings many times to issue directions for award of contracts to favourite firms.

Shahbaz’s blue eyed officer Ahad Cheea and Sharif’s principal secretary Fawad Hasan Fawad are already in the NAB’s custody in the Ashiana housing scheme scam.

The Sharif family’s advocate Amjad Pervaiz told reporters that Shahbaz is an opposition leader in the National Assembly and he cannot be arrested without the permission of the Speaker.

The PML-N has condemned the arrest of Shahbaz and termed it a “political victimisation”.

“We strongly condemn the arrest of the party president by the NAB. It appears to be a political victimisation which should be stopped,” PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Auranzeb said to PTI.

By-elections are going to be held on October 14 to fill 11 parliamentary seats and 19 provincial assembly seats.

These by-elections are crucial as the outcome could affect the narrow majority of Imran Khan’s coalition government at the Centre, even though many of the constituencies are considered PTI strongholds. PML-N can reportedly win back control of Punjab since the competition is closer in the provincial assemblies.

Dawn reported that the leader of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Naeemul Haq, was not aware of the facts of the case against the former Chief Minister of Punjab.

(With inputs from PTI/Reuters)