Hitting back hard at the NAB, PML-N lifetime supreme leader Nawaz Sharif on Thursday dared the Bureau’s Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal to furnish proof of money laundering to India against him or quit the office within 24 hours.
Terming the allegations as shameful, Nawaz said the NAB and its chairman had lost credibility.
Alleging that his disqualification was predetermined, he stated that NAB’s press release was an episode of an upcoming accountability drama. “They deposed me for an Iqama when they could not prove corruption. I have faced over 70 hearings – they are hunting for something that can be used to send me packing for good.”
Referring to the NAB’s probe against him involving alleged money laundering of $4.9 billion to India, he said the cases being heard against him by an accountability court were also based on unverified media reports, originating from the so-called Panama Papers. “You can recall that I was not named in the Panama Papers but whatever happened is before you,” he said.
Addressing a news conference at the Punjab House, he reminded, “I have appeared approximately 70 times in bogus accountability cases but nothing could be proved.”
He said the JIT formed by the Supreme Court could not prove corruption, kickbacks or commission of a single penny against him. “But it had been decided to oust me and so residential permit, a visa, was used to oust me from the office,” said Nawaz.
He was of the view that presenting a distorted version of the World Bank report was a part of the same conspiracy against him. “Does the NAB not know that the World Bank had issued a clarification two years ago and said there had been no money laundering? Does it not know that reputed newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, Dawn, and Business Recorder had reported on the issue?” he questioned.
“Despite all of this, using an unknown column in an unknown newspaper published four months ago was used to begin an investigation which indicates the malice,” he added.
Nawaz described the NAB inquiries against the PML-N leaders as “pre-poll rigging” and urged the Bureau’s chairman to bring forward evidence to prove the allegations against him or resign. “It is NAB’s duty to answer all my questions within 24 hours and address these reservations. Failing to do so, the NAB should apologise to the nation and it chairman must resign.”
The former prime minister thanked the media which, he said, had conducted a “post-mortem” of the issue just hours after the NAB ordered the inquiry against him and presented the facts. “The NAB’s vindictive approach is weakening democracy,” said Nawaz.
According to NAB, the World Bank’s migration and remittance report released in September 2016 carried information that the foreign exchange reserves of India increased by $4.9 billion after receiving a huge amount sent through money laundering, inflicting losses to Pakistan’s national kitty. While the World Bank promptly responded to the NAB move and stated “the report does not include any mention of money laundering nor does it name any individuals”, the State Bank of Pakistan said the estimates showed in the WB report were based on assumptions, which did not reflect the reality.
“The references against me in NAB are related to a baseless media report,” Nawaz said clarifying his stance and added that his media trial had become NAB’s sole mission.
He pointed out that the NAB claims were shot down by the Washington-based multilateral agency on the same day as its local office denied that allegations were levelled against the PML-N leader in its remittance report. To a volley of questions, Nawaz alleged that some forces had been pressuring his party’s MNAs to quit and contest elections as independents or join the PTI. “Who these elements are,” he posed a query.
The confident PML-N supremo said the aliens, for the first time, would taste defeat at the hands of earthly forces (masses).
He said the PML-N leaders were being coerced and threatened with corruption cases to make them join the PTI or contest the elections as independents. “It is simple unjust to pressure our lawmakers to defect,” he said. “No matter what tactics they use, the public will stand by us.”
He said some of his party’s MNAs, who do not wish to leave the party, had told him they were approached by some people to get their loyalties changed. “These are not NAB people,” Nawaz claimed, adding that those refusing to comply were threatened with the NAB cases.
The three-time prime minister said “some of these cases have already been instituted” and wondered who the “celestial beings” had a nexus with.
He said there was no provision in the NAB law that permitted lodging cases on the instruction of someone else or getting someone to change their loyalties.
In a reference to estranged PML-N lawmakers who had formed the Janoobi Punjab Sooba Mahaz (JPSM) and merged with the PTI a day earlier, Nawaz said they did not really want to join Imran Khan-led party and were forced into doing so.
To a query, Nawaz said that he fully agreed with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s speech in the National Assembly, in which he stressed that NAB should sort out its matters for the future rather than digging up old cases.
He said the thought hadn’t even crossed his mind that he should approach the president for clemency if he is convicted in the so-called corruption cases. “Even if a sentence is announced against me today, I will not go to anyone for pardon or ask for mercy.”
Asked who he was referring to when he claimed he was up against an extraterrestrial species or aliens, Nawaz said the celestial specie was “invisible” and had been present in the country for the past 70 years. “The celestial specie is now going to have a face-off with earthly beings,” he remarked, adding that the latter would defeat the former.
Once again questioning the corruption trial against him, Nawaz said the cases would have been decided within 10 days if there had been any credible evidence. “I think they want to drag the case until the Day of Judgment or till they fabricate or manufacture something to get me convicted.”
Equating horse-trading to treason, he said those involved in the practice were wrong to assume that they would not be apprehended. “Political parties who still believe in democracy exist,” asserted Nawaz.
Earlier in the day, Nawaz told the media inside the accountability court that the NAB in many cases was exceeding beyond its jurisdiction. “This country has become a laughing stock with such issues. May Allah help us to avoid any unpleasant incident,” he said.
Nawaz once again criticised the NAB law and said during his tenure in the Prime Minister’s Office, he remained busy in development works which was the reason he could not take any action about the law. “This NAB law is formed by a dictator Gen Musharraf and it was cut and had been designed by some people with mala fide intentions.”
However, Nawaz also expressed his apprehensions, saying it was difficult to attain consensus in the parliament for amending the NAB law. “It is the time now to decide whose law will prevail in this country, whether the parliament or dictator.”
Responding to a question about the extension in the deadline by the Supreme Court for adjudication of corruption references, Nawaz said they would keep on extending deadlines unless they fabricate something against him. At this point, Maryam Nawaz, while referring to the $4.9 billion money-laundering allegation, said an attempt was made to fabricate something against Nawaz.
When Nawaz was asked why he does not file an acquittal application like Imran Khan, Senator Pervaiz Rashid intervened and said, “We will file such an application when our fate will be the same as Imran Khan.” At this Nawaz promptly said, “Allah forbid, we share the same fate like Imran Khan.”
When asked about the merger of JPSM with PTI, Nawaz said, “I have seen those people on television last day and many of them were those whom I don’t even recognise except for two or three persons. We are not worried about the people leaving our party. The people of Pakistan are with us.”
Commenting on the chief justice’s visit to a mental hospital where he, expressing displeasure over the cleanliness in the kitchen, had thrown away utensils, Nawaz said, “Who has authorised the Chief Justice of Pakistan for such an action?”
To a question that Imran Khan is vying for the separation of south Punjab and merger of Fata, Nawaz said he only takes a position that suits him. “He is a man of double standards and not reliable at all.”
A question was also posed at Nawaz regarding the suspension of Ishaq Dar’s Senate membership by the Supreme Court. But it was Pervaiz who replied, saying, “Ishaq Dar has not taken oath yet then what this suspension is for?” At this, Nawaz commented that decisions were being made beyond the Constitution and the law.
Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif in a lighter vein showed a WhatsApp message to reporters, which read, “Nawaz Sharif is responsible for the drowning of Titanic ship and soon notices will be issued to him.”
During a break in the case proceedings, Khawaja Haris, the counsel for Nawaz, came and said congratulations. Nawaz inquired for what. Haris replied that Maryam had become a grandmother. At this, Nawaz said, “I thought we are acquitted.”