Lahore: In pursuit of their ambitious agenda of putting the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) top leadership behind bars, the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) government seems to have adopted the blatant a collision course with the top court’s chief justice by refusing to remove PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister from the ban travel list. In the hearing on the report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in the fake accounts case, that mainly involves PPP co-chairperson Asif Zardari, Omni Group owners and Bahria Town tycoon Malik Riaz among 172 people, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar came hard on the JIT team for including the names of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Murad Ali Shah on the list. Soon after the court’s observation, when the PPP leadership was celebrating ‘the failure of the JIT or the government’, government’s firebrand spokesperson and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry along with accountability czar Shahzad Akbar took to the press, challenging the court observations. Now, the government, instead of following the ruling, first referred the matter to the federal cabinet and later on deferred it till the detailed judgment of the Supreme Court.
PPP Punjab Information Secretary and, what he calls himself, a diehard Bhuttoist Hassan Murtaza says the government is openly disobeying the Supreme Court order on taking out the names of the PPP leaders from the ECL.
The PTI’s insistence on keeping the Sindh chief minister is creating a 90s like confrontation when Nawaz Sharif was the Punjab chief minister and Benazir Bhutto prime minister.
Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab said Sindh was a federating unit and such treatment with the chief minister of Sindh would not strengthen the federation.
He said record shows that the PPP always respected court orders whether it was about the removal of Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani from the premiership or cases against former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and Mr Gilani who are to date appearing before the courts in concocted cases.
Not only the PPP, but the PML-N leadership has also come forward against government’s ‘victimization’ of the opposition.
Senior PML-N leader and former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah told Truth Tracker that Aleema Khan would have been in jail, had her name been carrying the suffix of ‘Sharif’ or ‘Bhutto.’
Mr Sanaullah stressed that the money trail of Aleema Khan’s benami properties should also be investigated. The PML-N’s outspoken MNA from Faisalabad added that Maryam Nawaz was sentenced to jail for allegedly not producing the money trail of their properties but no action is being taken against Aleema Khan on a similar case. He said the PML-N is not afraid of accountability but that must not be done as political victimisation.
The court heard in the Aleema Khan case that the Board of Revenue fined her to give her clean chit.
This baffled former Sindh governor and PML-N leader Muhammad Zubair said that this was a sad example of how parallel systems of accountability were being run in the country. “She (Aleema) was asked to pay just fine. Just fine?” asked the PML-N leader.
Ahsan Iqbal, a prominent PML-N leader, maintained that since the PTI government is going after opposition, therefore, ‘anyone from PTI who has done something wrong is treated differently by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
“‘Selective’ accountability of a ‘selected prime minister’ is not acceptable. PML-N legislators are being arrested whereas the PTI and its allies, no matter how severe the allegations are on them, they are free to do anything,” said Ahsan.
PML-N spokesperson Maryam Aurangzeb suggested NAB to be called “Noon Accountability Bureau”.
She said the framing a reference of assets beyond known income, against former Punjab chief minister and PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif is nothing more than victimization.
She questioned the lackluster performance of the accountability watchdog on the Malam Jabba land case which involves Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Chief Minister Atif Khan. Maryam Aurangzeb asked If Shahbaz Sharif could be arrested, the KP chief minister should be arrested as well.
“Why a case is not being developed against the prime minister for the illegal use of powers? Why the use of government helicopter for personal use is not being investigated?”
While slow pace of NAB on cases of the ruling elite is being questioned, the clean chit the bureau to the Chaudhry brothers did not go well with the opposition.
During investigations, the accountability watchdog says it found that the people who had been mentioned as “front men” were “employees” of Chaudhry brothers and they bought plots for themselves. The NAB authorities could not find any concrete “evidence, documented or oral” against the Chaudhry brothers hence the closed.
While talking to Truth Tracker, Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said they presented the money trail of Aleema Khan. He revealed that Aleema had been doing cotton export business for the past 20 years. Moreover, she never held any public office, so no misuse of authority or corruption allegations can be framed against her.
Mr. Chaudhry stated that the investigation against the prime minister in the helicopter case was nothing more than an insult to the prime minister.
In the days to come, the country’s political scene is likely to be under the grip of tensions, which will impact the economy.