Pakistan: Accountability court acquits Shehbaz Sharif in Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme case

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Islamabad [Pakistan], November 18: An accountability court in Lahore on Saturday acquitted Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and others in the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme case.

Accountability court judge Ali Zulqurnain announced the verdict and acquitted Shehbaz Sharif, senior bureaucrat Fawad Hasan Fawad, former director general of the Lahore Development Authority Ahad Khan Cheema and others in the case.

Ali Zulqurnain’s verdict came after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) declared Shehbaz Sharif, during his tenure as Punjab Chief Minister, did not take any benefit from the government funds or misused his public office in the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme case. The NAB also said that other co-accused were also not involved in any wrongdoing.

The corruption watchdog’s latest clean chit for the former prime minister came months after he, his family members and others were cleared in a money laundering case.

The Ashiana case first emerged in January 2018 when NAB accused Sharif, the then-opposition leader, of misusing his authority to illegally issue orders for cancellation of the contract with regard to the housing project during his term as Punjab’s CM in 2014, ARY News reported. In March 2014, Shehbaz Sharif visited the Ashiana-e-Iqbal project site and stopped its bidding process, according to the case.

The Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) was looking after the project. However, Shehbaz Sharif after visiting the site took the decision to assign the project to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) which resulted in contract being given to the Lahore Casa Developers (JV), causing the loss of Pakistani Rupees (PKR) 715 million loss to the exchequer, according to the case.

The NAB arrested Shehbaz Sharif in the case on October 5, 2018. He was arrested from his Lahore office, where he had appeared after being summoned for questioning in connection with an investigation into the Saaf Pani Company scam.

According to NAB, the contract for the housing scheme was won by a construction company titled Chaudhry Latif and Sons. However, “Shehbaz Sharif and his aides awarded the Rs 14 billion contract to Lahore Casa Developers – a proxy group of Paragon City (Pvt) Limited, which is said to be owned by then Railways Minister Saad Rafique”.

Later that year, senior bureaucrat Fawad Hasan Fawad, former director general of the Lahore Development Authority Ahad Khan Cheema and several others were also arrest.

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