Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi urged PML-N leader Khawaja Asif to stop hiding behind the excuse of “political vendetta” and face accountability.
The foreign minister was holding the news conference with Adviser to Prime Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan. He was reacting to Khawaja Asif’s arrest in the assets beyond means case and the PML-N’s strong reaction against it.
“Khawaja Asif was invited many times to present himself to NAB and satisfy the bureau,” said FM Qureshi. “It seems as if Asif couldn’t answer NAB’s questions [related to assets beyond means].”
The foreign minister said that since yesterday evening — when Asif was arrested — a storm has erupted and Opposition parties have been saying that NAB has been exacting revenge on political rivals of the government.
“NAB is an independent institution and is not subservient to the government,” he said. “The laws according to which NAB operares were not introduced by the PTI,” added FM Qureshi.
The foreign minister said that people should refrain from speaking about a PTI-NAB nexus since the accountability bureau was an independent body.
“Only Khawaja Asif can shed light on why he was arrested,” he said. “They say, ‘If you asks us questions, we will lay a siege around you,'” said FM Qureshi, hitting out at the PML-N.
‘Now we understand why Opposition wanted to amend NAB laws’
Continuing his tirade against the Opposition, FM Qureshi said every person was held accountable in respectable societies the world over. “Now we are understanding why they wanted to amend NAB laws,” he said. “They had told us [the government] that if NAB laws are relaxed then [Opposition] will hold talks with us,” added Qureshi.
He accused the Opposition of demanding an NRO from the government, adding that Khawaja Asif had been present in the FATF-relaed legislation meetings that took place between the government and Opposition.
He urged Khawaja Asif and other Opposition leaders to reply to NAB’s accusations and expose them if they were indeed filthy. “But they don’t have answers to NAB’s questions,” he said. “Imran Khan brought forth a 40-year-old record and appeared before the court,” said Qureshi, adding that after weighing the evidence, the Supreme Court declared PM Imran Khan “Sadiq and Ameen’.
Babar Awan accuses Nawaz Sharif of laundering money
Awan spoke next, hitting out at PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz for saying that Nawaz Sharif should not have been punished for holding an Iqamah.
“I want to explain to people the various advantages that come with holding an Iqamah,” he said. “With an Iqamah, you can hold accounts in foreign banks,” he added.
Awan said that Iqamahs are a residency permit that those who work abroad get. He said that money earned through illegal means is sent abroad and then brought back to the country by Pakistan’s politicians.
“People who continuously live abroad become locals in foreign countries,” he said. “However, why did Nawaz Sharif and Khawaja Asif felt the need to get an Iqamah?” he asked.
Awan said that Pakistan was that “unfortunate country” from where billions were stolen and stashed abroad. He accused the Opposition of making the NRO an excuse or their resignations from the parliament to escape NAB’s accountability.
Khawaja Asif blames PM Imran Khan for his arrest
PML-N leader Khawaja Asif claimed on Wednesday that Prime Minister Imran Khan was “100%” behind his arrest, adding that this was an attempt to weaken party supremo Nawaz Sharif.
Asif was arrested by NAB Tuesday night in a case pertaining to acquiring assets beyond means of income. The party had gathered at PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal’s house in the federal capital for a huddle which was being attended by PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz.
Talking to reporters outside an accountability court in Islamabad, Asif had said attempts have been made to break the party in the last two-and-a-half years.
When a reporter asked Asif to elaborate on a statement made by Maryam claiming that the Asif had been told all cases against him would be written off if he stood against Nawaz Sharif, the ex-defence minister had said: “This is what we are all being told.”
Asif added that the case has been pending for over two years now. “I was given a charge sheet that assets increased but NAB has so far not investigated the matter. I have been facing this case for over two years, first in Rawalpindi then in Lahore.”