ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry Tuesday said the modus operandi of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and that of erstwhile president Asif Ali Zardari to plunder the national wealth were the same.
“Probably, the money laundering networks being run by the families of these two are the biggest in world," he said addressing a news conference here.
Reacting to a press conference held by some Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders earlier on the day, he said the most shameful act committed by them was that when they (PML-N leaders) compared Nawaz Sharif's sons with expatriate Pakistanis in the Middle East.
“They (expats) send their hard earn money to Pakistan and leaders like them (PML-N) use that money for their personnel benefits and gains," he said.
The expats had to move to some foreign countries for better earnings as they did not get opportunities in the country, he added.
The minister said companies such as Al-Azizia Steel Company Limited and Hill Metal Establishment were non-existent enterprises as their only purpose was to make money.
He said the Sharifs' Jati Umra residence was consisted of 100 acres where around 700 employees were serving. “But their assets show they even don't have the money to pay the salaries of these employees."
He said the condition of Nawaz Sharif's defenders was not different from him (Nawaz). They were in fact not worried for him but for their own selves as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Prime Minister Imran Khan had been given mandate by the masses to do accountability and catch the thieves, he added.
The government, he said, had not arrested Nawaz Sharif, while the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) kept the references against him pending. The same had happened in the case of Maryam Nawaz.
Fawad said NAB had already made it clear as to why Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif and another PML-N MNA Saad Rafique were arrested.
“The NAB arrested Shehbaz Sharif as in his case evidences were being tampered with. It (NAB) is not arresting those who are cooperating with it. It is only arresting the individuals who are trying to frustrate the investigations."
He said it was clear that the prime minister would neither ask for some discriminatory actions against anyone nor would he become a party in any matter. Investigations into all the cases, including that of money laundering against Asif Zardari, began in 2015 when the PTI was not in power.
The investigations were stopped (after sometime). However, when the PTI came into power it detached itself from all the issues as it believed institutions should act independently. “We allowed the institutions to work freely.
They functioned independently and now we are startled at the revelations made by them."
Elaborating the reasons of mega corruption cases, the minister said the matter began with signing of Charter of Democracy (COD) by the PPP and the PML-N. “The first corruption case took place in 1992 when Nawaz came into power. And when Zardari got the opportunity several other scams came to limelight, including the Surrey Palace."
The COD was basically a ‘charter of corruption' between the gangs led by Nawaz and Zardari, he added.
He said after the completion of five-year government tenures of both PPP and PML-N, Pakistan's foreign debt had risen to Rs. 24 trillion from Rs. 6 trillion.
The leadership of the two parties had named their plundering as democracy, he added.
He said the province of Sindh had suffered a lot as around 33 to 35 per cent of its PSDP (Public Sector Development Programme) was usurped by the Zardari Group of Companies. “Similarly, a big chunk of amount reserved for the province of Punjab went into the kitty of Hassan Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif," he added.
“These two parties had entered into an agreement from where they were getting commissions from every side."
He said the Park Lane Company, where Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was also a shareholder, was the same company, which Zardari had snatched from Hashwani.
Fawad said the courts gave Nawaz Sharif enough time to clear his position and he would get again that opportunity in the high court.
The question being asked from Nawaz, he said, was very simple i.e. that why his declared assets did not match his lifestyle. “These people are being asked to justify their amount lying in their bank accounts," he added.
Expressing surprise over Ahsan Iqbal's statement that the PTI had been imposed on the people of Pakistan, the minister said the PML-N leader was suffering from despair and depression.
He (Ahsan Iqbal) had probably forgotten that who had imposed the PML-N on Pakistan in 1980's. Ahsan was very close to dictator Zia-ul-Haq and even he did his engineering degree at his (Zia's) quota, he added.
He said the Sharif brothers were even unable to get elected councilors before the Zia regime.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for Revenue Muhammad Hammad Azhar said an attempt was made to mislead the nation by the PML-N leaders that Nawaz Sharif was sentenced because his son had sent him money from abroad.
“If you look at the documents you will see things are not like that as they are trying to portray. Around 88 per cent profit of Al-Azizia Mills and Hill Metal was sent to Nawaz Sharif and 10 per cent to his employees. This shows that Nawaz Sharif owned these companies.
“They (PML-N and PPP) have failed to answer the questions as to from where did the money come for their companies. Instead of replying, they ask us to seek money trail from Aleema Khan."
Aleema, who had never been a public office-holder, had submitted her money trail in the Supreme Court, he added. “However, as in her tax returns she had not declared her property, she will have to pay the penalty, besides paying taxes according to Pakistani laws."
“Had she not been able to prove her money trail, she would have been passing through the same circumstances (like the PML-N and PPP leaders)," he added.
He said the money laundering network being run by Nawaz and Zardari had caused huge damage to the national economy as well as to common man.
A huge amount from the PSDP funds had been transferred abroad in the form of commission and it was clear that Omni group, Alz-Azizia Mills and Hill Metal Establishment were just vehicles of money laundering, he added.
The minister said if anyone from the PTI was found involved in money laundering, the party would itself handover him/her to NAB. He asked the PML-N leaders not to mislead the nation and answer the questions asked by the courts.
The joint business ventures of the two families had been exposed and hopefully NAB, FIA and other institutions would take the cases against them to their logical end, he added.
Senator Shibli Faraz on the occasion said according to the PML-N and PPP leaders, democracy was getting weakened in the country due to the accountability process.
“I just want to tell them that democracy does not weaken due to accountability rather it will strengthen."