The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Thursday described as “fake news” reports that it had withdrawn money-laundering cases filed by the ousted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz.
“A fake news is circulating in media regarding withdrawal of the case against political leaders of a party in Lahore,” read a statement issued by the agency’s spokesperson. Stressing that the case had not been withdrawn, it said proceedings were continuing in court with the next hearing due for May 14 (Saturday). “Hence, it is fake news. FIA may legally proceed against the persons involved in spreading this fake news,” it added.
According to the press release, the prosecutor in the case had submitted an “opinion-based application” in court on April 11—prior to the formation of the new coalition government—regarding a change in prosecution. “He [prosecutor] mentioned the investigation officer, and through him the then-DG FIA. He was allegedly asked for not [sic] appearing as prosecutor. It was not a withdrawn application anyway,” it added.
“On [April 11, 2022] Sanaullah Abbasi was the DG FIA. At the time of submission of the application, the new P.M. had not yet taken oath,” it said, adding that incumbent FIA director-general Tahir Rai had been posted on April 22. “This matter pertains to the timing before his arrival in FIA,” it stressed.
Noting that a change in prosecutor was a “routine” matter, it recalled that the prosecutor in the same case had been changed “several times” during the tenure of the previous government. “It is requested that fake news may not be spread in this matter,” the spokesperson added.
Earlier on Thursday, some sections of the media had reported that the FIA had decided to withdraw the not to pursue a money laundering case against P.M. Sharif, Punjab C.M. Shehbaz and other alleged accomplices. Citing the letter written by the previous prosecutor, Sikandar Zulqarnain Saleem, the reports had claimed the FIA had decided to no longer pursue the case as “maybe quarters concerned were not interested in prosecuting the accused persons.”
Special Court Judge Ijaz Hassan Awan subsequently made the application part of the case record, with another hearing subsequently held on April 27. The proceedings were then adjourned until May 14 for the indictment of the accused persons and the arguments of the defense against the charge sheet. “It is being made clear to all the parties that on the next hearing, we will indict them … all the suspects should ensure their attendance,” read the special court’s order after the April 27 hearing.