On Thursday, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) awarded 14 days of remand to Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Parliamentary Leader of the PML-N in the National Assembly, for accountability in Lahore.
The prosecutor of the NAB told the court that Asif, who was arrested on Tuesday from Islamabad, faced charges of collecting assets beyond established revenue sources.
Asif had acquired properties in the names of his wife and children as well, the prosecutor said, adding that the assets of Asif were now Rs812.1 million, originally worth Rs5.1 million.
The prosecutor told the court that the leader of the PML-N had not revealed the means by which he acquired these properties and asked Asif to be physically remanded so that the investigation against the leader of the PML-N could be concluded.
Asif’s lawyer, however, objected to the appeal, arguing that the argument against his client was “baseless” and “false.”
Asif claimed that he had been transferred to NAB’s custody in Lahore because Prime Minister Imran Khan “couldn’t get the desired result when an inquiry was launched against him by the watchdog’s Rawalpindi chapter”
Asif’s lawyer told the court that his client had been summoned by the NAB, Rawalpindi, numerous times and Asif had appeared before the anti-graft watchdog each time. In addition, he appeared before the NAB, Lahore, all five times he had been called, the lawyer said.
He said all documents sought by the NAB had also been given, objecting to a physical remand order by the watchdog.
However, the court sent Asif on physical remand until 13 January, ordering the NAB at the next hearing to file a progress report on the probe. It further ordered the watchdog to let Asif visit his family, adding that at the next hearing, Asif must also be brought before the judge.
After receiving his transit remand from an accountability court on Wednesday, the NAB squad moved Asif from Islamabad to Lahore. Another senior PML-N official, Ahsan Iqbal, was arrested a day earlier by Asif from outside the Islamabad residence, where the former had come to attend a party meeting.
The firebrand opposition leader’s dramatic arrest sparked a sharp response from his party, with PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz charging that NAB behaved in the gloom of night as a “terrorist” and “kidnapped” Asif.
In a tweet, PML-N Supreme Leader Nawaz Sharif condemned the arrest and called it a consequence of the’ link between the selectors and the chosen.’
Such small acts represent the state of panic of the nation, but by such behaviour, it is creeping ever closer to its end,” he wrote.
Asif had reported on Wednesday, speaking to the media outside the court premises in Islamabad, that PM Imran was behind his arrest and that attempts had been ongoing for the past two years to create a split within the PML-N.
Later in the day, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressed a press conference and said Asif had been summoned multiple times by the NAB to come and answer questions to “satisfy” the anti-graft watchdog.
It seems that [NAB] was unable to please him. He was unable to offer adequate responses to charges against him surrounding money laundering and non-media properties. If the money trail and an explanation had been given, so maybe it might not have come to the point of detention.
Charges aimed towards Asif
According to the NAB, under Clause 4 of the NAB Ordinance 1999 and Section 3 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010, investigations against the PML-N chief were conducted.
“The total value of Khawaja Asif’s assets was Rs5.1 million before assuming public office in 1991, which rose to Rs221m in 2018 after serving on various positions that do not match his known revenue sources,” a statement released by the NAB said.
“Accused Khawaja Asif claimed to have received Rs130m from a UAE company M/s IMECO, but he failed to present any solid evidence during the course of the investigation of receiving this amount as a salary,” it said, adding: “This clearly shows that the accused tried to prove his income through false sources.”
In addition, the NAB claimed that Asif also owned a ‘Tariq Mir and Business’ benami company that was registered in his employee’s name. It was said that a sum of Rs400m had been deposited in Tariq Mir’s account and no sources of this tremendous amount were revealed.