The government on Saturday seized on the revelations made in a damning Financial Times report to grill the PTI over the prohibited funding case, describing it as the “biggest corruption” in the country’s history.
According to the London-based publication’s report, Arif Naqvi, the founder of the Dubai-based Abraaj Group, held a cricket tournament at Wootton Place, with guests asked to pay between £2,000 and £2,500 each. The money, it added, was said to go to unspecified “philanthropic causes”.
Although the fees were paid to Wootton Cricket Ltd, a Cayman Islands-incorporated company owned by the Abraaj founder, it was used to fund the PTI, with £2 million paid by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al-Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family, the report added.
According to Financial Times, between February 28 and May 30, 2013, the account maintained by Wootton Cricket Ltd received millions of dollars from local and prohibited citizens, and the money was eventually diverted towards the PTI.
The PML-N-led government, including two federal ministers, spent the day addressing news conferences and calling for strict legal actions against the party. They also wondered why PTI chief and deposed premier Imran Khan was not facing the music.
Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, while addressing a press conference at the PML-N’s secretariat in Model Town, Lahore, maintained that Imran had collected tens of millions of rupees from overseas Pakistanis as well as taken money from them under the pretext of building a dam.
He wondered why the former premier, who seeks open trials for others, “runs away” from one himself.
“Imran Khan faced allegations of ball tampering in cricket, but in politics, he tampered with funding,” he added.
Commenting on a “campaign” against him on social media, he said that he would sue the PTI chief for it.
“Imran Khan, I am going to sue you. You prove me a liar or [else] I will prove you a liar,” he remarked.
“We will not allow you to defame everyone,” he added.
He also wondered why the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was afraid of Imran’s “threats”.
“The Election Commission should independently decide on [the] prohibited funding [case] because this is the biggest corruption case in the country’s history,” the minister claimed.
Iqbal maintained that the PTI had been unable to present any evidence of prohibited funding against the PML-N to the ECP.
Addressing a separate news conference, PML-N leader Mohammad Zubair challenged the former premier to sue Financial Times over the story to set the record straight.
He also urged the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of the matter and summon the PTI chief.
A day earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had also called for Imran to sue Financial Times over the report. During Saturday’s news conference, Zubair simply echoed the premier’s demand.
Funding case, page 6
PM Shehbaz had tweeted that the charade of self-proclaimed honesty and righteousness had been busted by the Financial Times story that details the flow of prohibited funding into PTI bank accounts, while calling on his predecessor to sue the publication.
Zubair further said as per the report, the money that was diverted to the former ruling party’s account was not even declared.
The PML-N leader said the long-running prohibited funding case was delayed because the PTI chief and other leaders were not ready to give answers.
Responding to Imran’s demand for hearing the prohibited funding case against the PTI alongside similar cases against the PML-N and PPP, Zubair claimed their cases were different as they had given all details to the electoral body.
He also wondered how the system would ensure its reliability in the eyes of the people if the “law remains suspended for one person”.
Minister of State for Petroleum Musadik Malik also addressed a news conference, wherein he once again raised questions about Imran’s integrity.
“If a person is an accomplice in the money laundering of $250 million, is he Sadiq (truthful) and Amin (trustworthy)?” he asked.
Referring to the FT report, he said: “This is the same Arif Naqvi who was sentenced to 290 years for money laundering in the American courts.”
Malik raised the question how was Imran living in a house of 250 kanals when he had no means of livelihood.
Hinting at arrests, Malik said the government had formed a cabinet committee, and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had started its work. “Documents have been sealed, and the government is not merely levelling allegations, but an investigation has also been started,” he added.
The PML-N, using its official handle, tweeted that the man, who lectured people on corruption and mocked his political opponents for being corrupt, had devoured billions of rupees in prohibited funds.
In response to PM Shehbaz’s tweet a day earlier, PTI leader Hammad Azhar had written: “The same article mentions your family having received 15 times the sum from the same individual (Arif Naqvi). Any comment on that?”
He had added that PTI was the only party in South Asia that raised funds from Pakistanis transparently and in an organised way. “The others could not even produce records,” he had claimed.
PTI leader Shahbaz Gill had also tweeted that the report mentioned PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and PM Shehbaz receiving $20 million in 2016 from the Abraaj Group in the form of bribe.
“The PTI wrote the details of fundraising itself and submitted it to the Election Commission as part of the record. You should come and account for this $20 million,” he had added.
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