Pakistan’s former foreign minister and opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PM-N) stalwart Khawaja Muhammad Asif was on Thursday remanded in the custody of the anti-graft body for 14 days in the assets beyond means case. Asif, 71, was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday in Islamabad in connection with the charges of possessing assets beyond his known sources of income. The Accountability Court Lahore on Thursday accepted the plea of NAB and granted it 14-day remand of Asif, the close aide of deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif who condemned the arrest.
“The arrest of Khawaja Asif is a result of the nexus between the selectors (army and ISI chiefs Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Gen Faiz Hameed) and the selected (Prime Minister Imran Khan). Such belittle acts reflect the government’s state of panic, but it is moving even closer to its end through such actions, Nawaz said in a tweet from London where he has been living in self-exile after the Imran Khan government declared him absconder.
In the court, Asif told the judge that he remained member of the National Assembly and the NAB constituted a case of PKR 210 million against him. On this, the judge said, “who knows NAB recovers another Rs 210m during investigation.” The court also directed NAB to allow family members of Asif to meet him. PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz alleged that Asif was being pressured to oppose Nawaz Sharif and was arrested on refusing to do so. “I am saying this on oath that they (military establishment) asked Khawaja Asif to disassociate himself from Nawaz Sharif’s narrative and cases against him will be closed within 15 to 20 days, said Maryam, who is daughter of Nawaz Sharif.
According to NAB, before assuming the public office in 1991, the total worth of Asif’s assets was Rs 5.1 million which increased to Rs 221 million in 2018 after serving on different posts which do not match with his known sources of income. “Asif claimed to have received Rs 130 million from a UAE firm M/s IMECO, but during the course of investigation he failed to present any solid evidence of receiving this amount as a salary. This clearly shows that the accused tried to prove his income through fake sources,” it said.
NAB said Asif was also running a benami firm ‘Tariq Mir and Company’ which was registered in the name of his employee. An amount of Rs 400 million was deposited in the account of Tariq Mir and no sources of this huge amount were disclosed, it alleged. Asif joins a long list of PML-N leaders facing cases of corruption, including party president Shehbaz Sharif, senior members Hamza Shehbaz, Rana Sanaullah, Javed Latif, Ahsan Iqabl, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Saad Rafique.
His arrest comes at a time when the Pakistan Democratic Movement — an alliance of 11 Opposition parties — is organising protest rallies across the length and breath of the country, demanding Prime Minister Khan’s ouster.