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Shehbaz Sharif: Acquittal in Ashiana Housing Scheme Case

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An accountability court in Lahore acquitted prominent political figure Shehbaz Sharif and several co-accused in the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme reference. The verdict, delivered on a Saturday, brought relief to Shehbaz Sharif, who is the President of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and others involved in the case.

The case revolved around the Punjab government’s Ashiana housing projects initiated in 2010, with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) accusing Shehbaz Sharif of orchestrating the cancellation of a contract, leading to financial losses. Specifically, he was alleged to have directed the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) to assign the Ashiana-i-Iqbal project to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), resulting in the award of contracts to certain developers and subsequent financial setbacks.

The NAB had contended that Shehbaz Sharif’s actions caused a loss of Rs193 million by favoring Lahore Casa Developers over the initial successful bidder. Furthermore, accusations were made regarding the consultancy services contract for the Ashiana-i-Iqbal project, with allegations of inflated costs.

The legal saga unfolded in 2018 when Shehbaz Sharif, along with other key figures including caretaker Privatisation Minister Fawad Hasan Fawad and former LDA director general Ahad Khan Cheema, faced arrests. Subsequent indictments took place in February 2019, setting the stage for a prolonged legal battle.

Notably, earlier this year, NAB cleared Shehbaz Sharif of any wrongdoing in the Ashiana Housing Scheme scandal. This clearance played a pivotal role in the subsequent acquittal by the accountability court, highlighting the evolving nature of the case.

Former information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb expressed her joy on social media, congratulating the PML-N leadership and workers for the “acquittal of Shehbaz in the false case for the sake of political vendetta.” She emphasized how the public was now witnessing the creation of false cases leading to arrests and asserted that both time and money had been wasted in pursuing baseless allegations.

Ahad Khan Cheema, currently serving as the special assistant to caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar, expressed gratitude for being honored through this legal test. Speaking outside the accountability court, he highlighted the perceived shortcomings in the fulfillment of justice requirements and thanked his counsel for substantial support.

The narrative also touched upon Cheema’s resignation from the civil services due to the public’s attitude, adding a personal dimension to the broader legal proceedings. He expressed his enduring disappointment with people’s reactions over the past four to five years.

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