ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday said the superior courts should take notice of a video recently released by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz.
“Judiciary is free and independent, and therefore it should take notice of the matter,” he reportedly said while chairing a meeting of the government spokespersons in the federal capital on Monday. He said the government will not tolerate attacks on state institutions and will quash every conspiracy against them. He directed the government’s media managers to give the opposition party a befitting response for launching attacks on the state institutions.
The prime minister told the meeting that the PML-N has a history of attacking the judiciary. He said that forensic audit of the video will be conducted. He said that the accountability process will not stop despite such moves by the opposition.
Maryam Nawaz on Saturday came out with startling claims regarding the trial of her father and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in corruption references, alleging that the whole process of accountability was severely compromised. Addressing a press conference in Model Town along with entire senior party leadership, including her uncle and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, Maryam had claimed that accountability court judge Arshad Malik gave verdict under immense pressure while awarding seven-year imprisonment to Nawaz Sharif in the Al Azizia Steel Mill reference. She had also played a video recording of judge Arshad Malik and PML-N worker Nasir Butt in which the judge purportedly claimed that he was under immense pressure to give the verdict against Nawaz Sharif.
However, the very next day on Sunday, Judge Arshad Malik hit back at Maryam Nawaz, calling the so-called video evidence presented by her at a press conference a day earlier ‘fake and assumptive’. “The videos shown during the press conference are fake and based on lies and assumptions,” the judge said in a press release issued by his office. “The videos shown during the press conference are fake and based on lies and assumptions. Therefore, legal action should be taken against those individuals involved in this,” he had demanded.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan has previously dismissed Maryam Nawaz’s claims, saying they can only be considered authentic after a forensic audit of the video. “A baseless story was concocted for their own vested interests to make the institutions controversial,” she had said, adding that if the claims were valid, they should have been presented before the courts rather than to the media.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar on Monday that the opposition will object if the government initiates a probe over the controversial video, therefore it has been decided that the investigation should be carried out on a judicial forum. He said that a judicial commission should be formed on the matter, and that the Islamabad High Court or Supreme Court should carry out the investigation.
Akbar questioned who had attacked the judiciary in the past, and said judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan had declared these same people members of a ‘Sicilian mafia’ in a previous verdict.
Minister for Communications and Postal Services Murad Saeed, who accompanied Akbar at the press conference, announced that five more cases regarding irregularities committed in award of contracts by former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif were being sent to the high-powered commission probing loans obtained during the last 10 years and their utilisation. He said the National Accountability Bureau has already taken up those corruption cases and the same are now being sent to the commission also.
He said Shehbaz Sharif had issued a notification in 2008 for appointment of Mustafa Kamal, brother of PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal, as chairman of the Chief Minister’s Horticulture Task Force, whom five contracts were awarded in sheer violation of rules and procedure. The minister said the contracts including Lahore Metro, Islamabad-Rawalpindi Metro, University of Punjab Gujrat Campus and projects in Liberty Market Lahore were awarded to Mustafa Kamal without floating any tender or the bidding process. Ironically, he said, a special payment mechanism had also been devised to ensure smooth transfer of money to the front-man in the name of different projects.
Murad Saeed said he has already sent two cases of PPP and PML-N leaders to the commission for their alleged embezzlement in National Highway Authority (NHA) projects. He said billions of rupees were misappropriated through a contractor in the NHA projects approved for Larkana and Multan during the PPP government. The contract was awarded to Ashraf Baloch, who was also found involved in the fake bank account cases.