Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly accused of misusing authority while chief minister of Punjab province
Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau, detained Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) President Shahbaz Sharif on Friday in connection to its ongoing inquiry into the Ashiana Housing Scheme.
Currently the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Sharif has been accused of misusing his authority while chief minister of Punjab province. NAB has alleged he violated Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules in the awarding of contracts related to the Saaf Pani Company. He was also accused of illegally awarding contracts related to the Rs. 14 billion Ashiana Housing Scheme.
Mariyum Aurangzeb, spokeswoman of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) said the arrest was a move to “influence” upcoming by-elections on Oct. 14 that are crucial for Khan’s coalition government. “This is nothing but political victimization,” she told reporters in Islamabad.
Anticipating unrest at his arrest, a heavy contingent of paramilitary Rangers has been deployed outside NAB headquarters in Lahore, according to local media. Sharif is expected to be produced before an accountability court for remand tomorrow.
Sharif has appeared before NAB several times in the past year, primarily over his role in the Saaf Pani Company and the Ashiana Housing Scheme.
The Saaf Pani Company was established by the Punjab government to conceive, plan, design, execute and manage projects that would provide clean drinking water to areas of the province that remained off the grid. It was one of 56 public sector companies formed under Sharif being investigated by NAB for alleged corruption.
In June, NAB arrested Qamarul Islam Raja, former chairman of Saaf Pani Company, for his alleged role in awarding contracts for the project to preferred candidates rather than through a transparent process. The anti-corruption watchdog also arrested former CEO Wasim Ajmal, who is accused of altering the company’s documents after the bidding for the project had been completed—a clear violation of rules.