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LAHORE: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Mirza Shahzad Akbar kept beating around the bush regarding the fate of alleged money laundering cases registered against the Sharif family by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

“Those who are talking about the in-house change (will be embarrassed) and I’m seeing in-house change within the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ranks because the party has yet to decide whether Maryam Nawaz or the brother of deposed prime minister, Shahbaz Sharif, will be the front runner,” said the premier’s aide while responding to queries posed by reporters at a press conference on wide-ranging issues at 90-Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam on Friday.

Mirza Shahzad Akbar said the opposition parties should select their candidates first and then talk about the in-house change. When asked whether the ruling PTI has prepared any strategy to deal with the protestors of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) who have announced marching on the federal capital on February 27 to send packing of the Imran’s government, Shahzad avoided making any serious comment and said: “PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is a “non-serious” character, who cannot even travel from Sindh to Karachi alone.”

Speaking about progress made on the alleged money laundering cases / investigations against the Sharif family, the PM’s adviser said both PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif and his son Hamza were on interim bails from a banking court in Lahore. However, when the FIA submitted its challan before an “anti-corruption court”, the banking court issued a written verdict directing the agency to submit the challan before it since it had granted bails to the accused. Later, he added, the FIA submitted its challan before the banking court along with an application that the anti-corruption court was the relevant forum for the perusal of cases since there was no “baking related offense” in the challan. “Today, while approving the FIA’s request, the court has extended bails of both the PML-N leaders for another week,” he added.

Regarding the role of bankers who allegedly helped the Sharifs in laundering money through benami accounts, the PM’s adviser said that around 25 to 30 bankers had facilitated the Sharifs by not generating the required suspicious transaction reports (STRs) and the FIA in its report submitted to the court today said it has written to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to take strict administrative measures against them instead of making them a part of the criminal trial.

When asked about the fate of opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif since the federal cabinet had decided in principle to proceed against him for submitting a “false affidavit” regarding the treatment and expected return of his elder brother and former premier Nawaz Sharif, Shahzad said the younger Sharif did not meet the conditions he had agreed to in his undertaking submitted before the Lahore High Court (LHC) and everything was against him.

“Till date, Nawaz’s personal physician namely Lawrance Ramesh has submitted only 2-4 certificates before the LHC in which he contended that Nawaz was critically ill, but did not explain from which ailment he is suffering from and what treatment he was receiving,” he said.

Now, he added, a medical board would determine the medical documents submitted on behalf of Nawaz Sharif and to form an expert opinion regarding his health. He said if the board found any negligence on the part of Shahbaz then the government would request the court to initiate contempt proceedings against him.

When asked if the court directs Shahbaz to go to London and bring back the self-exiled PML-N supremo, the PM’s aide vowed that the government would do “whatever it takes” to keep Shahbaz in the country and they will contest the case with “full force” if such an order was passed by the court.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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