Adviser to the P.M. on Accountability says PTI cannot simultaneously call for ‘accountability for all’ and not go after alleged crimes of people within its own party
Dismissing comments by Jahangir Khan Tareen that he is being unfairly targeted by the ongoing probe against price fixing by sugar mills owners, Adviser to the P.M. on Accountability Shahzad Akbar on Wednesday said everyone was equal before the law.
Addressing a press conference, he said that it was Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision that there be “accountability for all” regardless of political affiliation. He said that Tareen was an important member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s core committee, but this did not mean he could not be held answerable for legal investigations.
Stressing that there were “no friends or foes” when it came to accountability, he said it was a great relief that the courts had fixed the ex-mill price of sugar at Rs. 80/kg for Ramzan, ensuring the commodity would be available at reasonable rates for consumers. He pointed out that Tareen’s JDW Sugar Mill and Al-Arabia Mills had both challenged the FIA’s jurisdiction in November 2020, but the Lahore High Court had held that the FIA had lawfully and competently taken cognizance of the matter and dismissed the petition. He said all institutions were acting in accordance with the findings of the sugar commission report and the federal cabinet’s orders, adding that this process had nothing to do whether a sugar mill belonged to a person from the treasury or the opposition.
“The courts are always available if anybody has any reservations,” he added. “Let me remind you that when this action was started, talks were also initiated with them [sugar mills], which led to a drop in the sugar prices for some time. But surprisingly within a month or two, the same trend of soaring sugar prices was witnessed,” he said.
Akbar claimed that the Sugar Inquiry Commission’s report, which came out in May 2020, had revealed money-laundering, alleged financial fraud and some other issues, prompting the federal government to initiate action. The National Accountability Bureau, he added, had sent items to take action if there was corruption related to subsidy. He clarified that no arrests had occurred yet, adding that investigations were underway.
Tareen’s ‘power show’
Earlier, Tareen appeared in court to secure pre-arrest bail with a group of lawmakers from Punjab province in what has been described as a “quiet power show” to the incumbent government.
The PTI stalwart alleged to media that the ongoing case was a “conspiracy” against him, adding that his loyalty to Prime Minister Imran Khan was being tested. Stressing that he was not parting ways with the PTI, he questioned why he was being targeted when there were so many other sugar mill owners also implicated. “I am asking for justice from PTI,” he said, adding that despite being a friend he was being “pushed towards enmity.”
Noting that he had stayed silent for more than 12 months while the probe against him was ongoing, he said the time had now come to expose the people hatching a conspiracy against him. “Imran Khan can expose the people” who are taking “revenge” against him, he added.
PTI MNA Raja Riaz, who accompanied Tareen, claimed the former secretary-general had played an “important role” in securing last month’s vote of confidence for Prime Minister Imran Khan, adding that Tareen had also “formed the Punjab government and [his absence] was proving costly for the PTI.” In addition to Riaz, Lala Tahir Randhawa, Noman Langrial, Salman Naeem, Ghulam Bibi Bharwana, Khurram Leghari and Abdul Hai Dasti also accompanied him to express their support.