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LAHORE: Ahead of opposition’s anti-government rally in Gujranwala, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Accountability and Interior Mirza Shahzad Akbar has accused Maryam Nawaz of illegally doling out Rs 2.5 billion to rig the 2017 by-election of NA-120 (now NA-125) and announced that the PTI government is going to file a reference before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in this regard.

Flanked by Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmeen Rashid, Akbar stated this while addressing a press conference at the Punjab Information Department (PID) on Wednesday. The NA-125 seat, which got vacant after the disqualification of former premier Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers verdict, was later on secured by late Begum Kalsoom Nawaz in September 2017 by-elections.

The SAPM said after the disqualification of Nawaz, the PML-N leadership had allegedly tasked Maryam to “rig” the NA-125 by-election. “To ensure compliance of the order, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Maryam Safdar sat down and devised a plan to rig the election by using taxpayers money,” he alleged, adding that the Traffic Engineering and Transport Planning Agency (TEPA) was selected for routing out funds/public money. “The deputy commissioner’s office in Lahore was also used for this purpose,” he said.

Akbar said that despite the fact that provinces are financially more viable than the centre after the 18th amendment, Fawad Hassan Fawad, former principal secretary to Nawaz Sharif, allegedly earmarked Rs 2.5 billion from the prime minister’s sustainable development progremme for developmental schemes. “The entire work and disbursement of funds was made during the months of August, September and October 2017. On the other hand, the tenders and work orders of the projects in questions were issued in January 2018,” he said, adding that the government has not only decided to file a reference before the ECP but it is also going to send this “high-profile” case to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) already being proved by the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) Punjab.

During the conference, the SAPM also showed and read out “confessional statements” of some National Engineering Services Pakistan (NESPAK) engineers. “Maryam Nawaz during the by-elections in NA-120 had arranged funds from the federal government and later held a meeting with former director general of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) and chief engineer TEPA at her Jati Umra residence. During the meeting, they discussed in detail the utilisation of funds,” Akbar claimed while quoting statement of the engineers.

He questioned under which capacity Maryam held the meeting with the government officers. According to the SAPM, the officers in their statements “confessed” that the PML-N leadership had directed them to boost their contacts with PML-N MPAs Majid Zahoor and Bilal Yaseen and complete their developmental works with their coordination within the election days.

The prime minister’s advisor revealed that the ACE Punjab has successfully acquired forensic evidence in which details of PML-N leader’s phone calls, geo-locations, pictures and data shared on WhatsApp groups is attached.

When asked why police are conducting raids and picking up supporters of political parties before the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) anti-government rally in Gujranwala, Shahzad Akbar said that giving permission for public gatherings is the sole right of the local administration.

“In the last meeting of National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), it came to light that the trend of Covid-19 pandemic is increasing rapidly across the country and the provinces were allowed to decide about the fate of smart lockdowns by considering their scientific data,” he said, adding that the government has no issue with the Gujranwala rally but urged the supporters to follow Covid-19 SOPs.

Punjab Health Minister Yasmeen Rashid also confirmed that the trend of Covid-19 is rapidly increasing and said she had been informing people that Lahore, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Jhelum and Rawalpindi are the virus hotpots. “Number of corona positive patients is significantly increasing and the Punjab government recently shut down eight schools in Gujranwala after several kids tested positive for the virus,” she added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020


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