The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has declared that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, during his tenure as the chief minister of Punjab, did not benefit from government funds or misuse his public office in the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme case. The corruption watchdog also cleared other co-accused, including senior bureaucrat Fawad Hasan Fawad, former director general of the Lahore Development Authority Ahad Khan Cheema, and Kamran Kiani, the brother of former army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kiani.
This latest clean chit from the NAB comes shortly after the prime minister, his family members and others were recently cleared in a money laundering case. The Ashiana scandal surfaced in January 2018 when the NAB accused Sharif, who was the opposition leader at the time, of canceling a contract awarded to Chaudhry Latif and Sons for the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme. The contract was subsequently awarded to Lahore Casa Developers, a proxy group of Paragon City Private Limited, resulting in a loss of Rs193 million.
Sharif was also accused of directing the Punjab Land Development Company to assign the Ashiana-i-Iqbal project to the Lahore Development Authority, which then awarded the contract to Lahore Casa Developers, causing a loss of Rs715 million and the eventual failure of the project. The NAB also alleged that Sharif directed the awarding of the consultancy services contract for the project to Engineering Consultancy Services Punjab for Rs192 million, while the actual cost quoted by Nespak, a renowned engineering consultancy, was supposed to be Rs35 million.
In response to the acquittal pleas of Shehbaz and Cheema, the NAB submitted a reply to the accountability court stating that Shehbaz referred the matter to the Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment “in accordance with the law with no mala fide intent.” The NAB report concludes that the offense of misusing office is not established under the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
The NAB also clarified that Kamran Kiani, as well as Fawad Hasan Fawad, were not involved in causing any loss of government funds or embezzlement. The report further states that neither the accused nor the contractor derived any benefit from government funds or expenditures in the case.
While acknowledging some procedural flaws in the formulation of the request for proposal (RFP) and the subsequent contract award, the NAB emphasizes that these were not intentional or malicious acts. The corruption watchdog asserts that no public officeholder obtained any pecuniary benefit by misusing their official positions, and there was no loss to the government exchequer.
The NAB has now requested the accountability court to make a decision on Shehbaz’s acquittal plea based on the evidence and in accordance with the law.