NOORIABAD/KHAIRPUR: The brief detention of a top PPP leader at Islamabad airport has triggered a political storm in the country, with Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah threatening to “throw out” federal institutions working under the heavy influence of politics.
He was referring to Saturday’s action of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against Sharjeel Inam Memon, the former information minister in the PPP-led government in Sindh, who was briefly arrested by the bureau soon after a flight carrying him from Dubai landed at Islamabad airport.
“The provincial [Sindh] government will not tolerate the wrong actions of federal institutions,” the chief minister told media representatives in Nooriabad.
“If these institutions continue to play politics, the Sindh government will send them packing,” Shah said. Wondering aloud, he said: “It is beyond my understanding why those who attacked the courts are roaming free while the PPP is being targeted.”
Memon fled the country in 2015 after the anti-corruption watchdog launched a crackdown against corrupt political figures and bureaucrats as part of the Karachi operation.
The high-drama at Islamabad airport had sent shockwaves through the PPP, even as the party’s government is still reeling from the temporary arrest of MQM-P leader Dr Farooq Sattar.
However, the provincial chief minister avoided making any link between the two incidents. “There is a big difference between the nature of [arrests] of Sharjeel Memon and Dr Farooq Sattar.”
“The former had obtained an interim bail from the Islamabad High Court and those who arrested him were probably unaware of the bail arrangements. He has come to face allegations levelled against him and will accept whatever the court decides.”
Shah insisted that Sindh had no place for federal organisations that were “influenced by politics”.
“They should go somewhere else. We shall not accept such tactics. This is a warning [to them] that if they continue to indulge in such activities, the Sindh government will not let them stay here. We shall ask them to pack up and leave the province.”
He blamed the centre for applying a “discriminatory approach” towards his party. “People wanted by NAB in mega scams have been moving freely,” the chief minister said while speaking to the media in Sehwan.
Sharjeel denies corruption charges
A top leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party cast doubt on the impartiality of the country’s premier anti-corruption watchdog on Sunday, saying the targeting of Sindh politicians “only” was undermining the credibility of the National Accountability Bureau.
“It seems NAB has been constituted to [intimidate politicians] from Sindh alone, the PPP in particular,” Sharjeel Inam Memon, the former provincial information minister, told reporters on Sunday.
The former minister, while denying the charges of corruption and malpractices, said, “I have returned to the country to face all [corruption] cases pending against me.”
Memon also called into question the justification and “intention” behind putting his name on the Exit Control List, saying he had gone abroad for treatment and had “not fled”.
“If the action [against me] is justified, then the names of [all] those accused in mega corruption scams like the Panama Papers should also be put on the ECL.”
He accused NAB of favouring certain government ministers over others. “The Supreme Court had told NAB to put together a list of mega scams. When the list was presented before the court, it contained the names of [Prime Minister] Nawaz Sharif, [Finance Minister] Ishaq Dar and many other ministers.”
“But once the list was presented before the court, were the names of those people from Punjab placed on the ECL too?” asked Memon, implying that two different sets of rules were being followed in the country – one for people of Punjab and another for those in Sindh.
Memon was of view that he was being treated “differently” because of his affiliation with the PPP. While giving details of the reference NAB had filed against him, Memon said: “No notice was served on me by NAB prior to submitting the reference [in court].”
The PPP leader said he went abroad three to four months before the reference was submitted in the court against him in October 2016 and added that in the same month he was granted bail by the Sindh High Court.
“Though I haven’t gone through the NAB reference, I’ve learnt that it carries the charges of violating the [due] process while giving advertisements to the media and charging high rates during my time as provincial information minister.”
Memon said the entire reference against him is focused on according [illegal] “approval” to the advertisements and questioned: “Why is the name of the premier not being placed on the ECL due to corruption in PIA?”
“A TV channel also ran a story alleging that Rs2 billion has been recovered from my residence. I served [defamation] notice on the channel and Pemra to which the latter has yet to respond.”
“Where are these Rs2 billion?”
“The news was run with mala fide intent and had no basis,” Memon said.
Memon admitted that there was no privilege in having corruption charges and said: “If I’ve committed [some] wrong, then I should be punished.” “I will not ask for mercy,” the PPP leader said.
He said he had returned to the country to face corruption charges, adding, “though I am not medically prepared yet”. Memon, while giving details of his arrest, said as soon as he disembarked from the plane, eight to ten people in civvies arrested him despite the fact he was granted bail by the Islamabad High Court.
“I keep requesting them to introduce themselves, but they didn’t [hear].”
“I was kidnapped, not arrested,” he said and added that he learnt about the NAB custody later. Memon also said that he would move the court to remove his name from the ECL as well as challenge the NAB reference.
The former minister said he would not file a contempt of court notice against NAB for detaining him. However, he maintained that whatever happened at the airport was “illegal” and “unlawful”.
(TRANSLATION BY ARSHAD SHAHEEN)2017-03-20