ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: A fresh slanging match between PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif erupted on Wednesday after the political rivals took potshots at each other, taking their battle of recriminations into an open arena.
It also provoked a political game of death: inviting the opponent to prove the claim or quit the race forever.
Imran played the aggressor, accusing Shahbaz of receiving kickbacks worth billions of rupees in four major development projects. Chief Minister Shahbaz immediately fended off the ‘slanderous and baseless’ claim by threatening a defamation suit against Imran.
“Javed Sadiq is a ‘frontman’ of Shahbaz. He is given consultancy contracts and in exchange, the Punjab CM receives commissions,” Imran told a news conference at his Bani Gala residence.
The documents distributed by the PTI chief did not show if consultancy contracts had been awarded in violation of rules or if Javed Sadiq had any business contract with the Punjab CM.
According to the documents, consultancy contracts of these projects were worth Rs26.5 billion — New Islamabad International Airport (Rs250 million consultancy contract), Quaid-i-Azam Solar Park (Rs11 billion), Multan-Sukkur Motorway (Rs15 billion), and Software Technology Park (Rs300 million) — and were given to Sadiq, a ‘Canadian national’.
“As much as Rs15 billion was already received against these contracts. The remainder of Rs11.5 billion will be released soon,” Imran told media persons while producing four pictures showing Sadiq as being part of Chinese and Pakistani investors’ delegations meeting with the Punjab CM in connection with these projects.
Imran said: “It will be useless to ask the CM to resign … he will never do so.”
Promising to make more such revelations soon, Imran said that whenever any investor firm visited Pakistan, the Punjab CM pointed it towards Sadiq’s door.
“Sadiq negotiates contracts with investors. And money is minted in the name of consultancy fees,” he said. The PTI leader described Sadiq as a ‘jack of all trades’ who had simultaneously been awarded contracts relating to technology and construction.
According to Imran, there are many such ‘front men’ working for the Punjab CM.
“I always wondered why the Punjab CM and prime minister personally visited China just to sign development contracts. Today I found out why,” he said.
Imran vs Corrupt Eleven
Imran said that on November 2 he would play the final match against Corrupt Eleven, alluding to the ruling party’s top leaders.
He also warned that the government itself would be responsible for any untoward situation, if it tried to stop his party’s supporters or blockaded roads or resorted to violence.
“The prime minister is a criminal,” Imran said. “He [Nawaz] is Pakistan’s Hosni Mubarak. His [Nawaz’s] long march [for the restoration of judiciary] was legal. He [Nawaz] killed people in Model Town and it was legal too,” Imran said.
Earlier, addressing members of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA), Imran said his party wanted to hold all corrupt elements accountable without derailing democracy. “Democracy and accountability are interlinked,” Imran said, adding that an independent judiciary was vital for holding the corrupt rulers accountable.
The Nov 2 protest, according to Imran, is being staged for Pakistan as 45 per cent children suffered from stunted growth, 25 per cent of children were malnourished and roughly 25 million children were out of schools just because ‘corrupt elements’ were ruling the country.
Imran equated Prime Minister Sharif with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, saying both used the same language against Pakistan’s armed forces. He said Premier Sharif had never rebutted allegations regarding Pakistan’s involvement in terrorism activities.
Shahbaz threatens defamation suit
Chief Minister Shahbaz announced that he would file a defamation notice worth Rs26.54 billion against Imran for levelling ‘baseless’ and ‘cheap’ allegations against him.
Addressing a news conference, Shahbaz said he would move the court and if it ruled in his favour, he would donate all the money for welfare projects for the people of Pakistan.
He said if the court ruled against him, he would quit politics forever.
He said he would request the court to hear the case on a day-to-day basis and if corruption of even a single penny was proven against him during his three tenures, he would present himself before the people for accountability.
Rejecting Imran’s statement, Shahbaz said that he knew Javed Sadiq as the representative of a Chinese company.
Facts not fiction
He said the contract for Islamabad airport was awarded to a Chinese company during the PPP government’s tenure. He pointed out that Sadiq’s company had participated in bids for the Bahwalpur Solar Plant project, but its bid was rejected. Similarly, he said, the bid of Sadiq’s company had also been rejected in the Safe City Project. He said Imran was just trying to confuse the people.
“Imran has levelled allegations of Rs26 billion against me … I am sending him a notice of the same amount. I am responding to this for once and for all and will not speak about this afterwards. Imran is confusing the people. The matter will now be decided in court,” Shahbaz said.
He said that the contract for an IT Tower had been awarded to Javed Sadiq during the tenure of former chief minister Pervaiz Elahi.
He said Iman had tried to degrade Metro Bus by referring it as ‘Jangla Bus’, adding that he had claimed that Rs70 billion had been spent on the project. “I dispute the figures … if anyone can prove an expenditure of Rs35 billion, I will be responsible,” he said.
He said that PTI leader had accused him of using steel from the Ittefaq Foundry in the Metro Bus project, but pointed out that the foundry had actually been shut down 17 years ago.
Citing a PILDAT survey, he said it showed that 67 per cent people appreciated the working of the Punjab government while the level of appreciation for the PTI-led Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government was just 38 per cent.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2016.