PKONWEB Report (Islamabad) — The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday arrested Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani considered very close to PPP Co-Chairperson and former president Asif Ali Zardari.
According to Geo News TV, the influential Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader was taken into custody from a local hotel here.
He is accused of accumulating wealth beyond known sources of income as well as allegations that he had embezzled public funds, investigation reports revealed.
Last year in March/April, NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal directed the anti-graft bureau to investigate the matter of the alleged irregularities in the award of contracts by Durrani and Sindh Assembly Secretary Ghulam Muhammad Farooq during construction of the new assembly building.
According to TV host Hamid Mir, he has seen the damning report himself.
This is the first instance of a speaker of the [provincial] assembly been taken into custody on white collar crime charges.
Dawn reported that the arrested speaker left Islamabad enroute to Karachi, in the custody of three NAB officials.
The talk show host said some important government personalities may also be arrested soon by NAB.
NAB officials told DawnNews TV that the bureau waited for Durrani to leave Sindh before making the arrest as Durrani is escorted by his sizable security team in his home province and the bureau feared a confrontation would turn violent.
The officials further said that the reason NAB arrests personnel who hold important offices is because they otherwise use their position to influence government officers.
The corruption watchdog’s Karachi chapter collaborated with NAB Rawalpindi and the intelligence wing of NAB headquarters to ensure Durrani’s arrest.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari slammed the arrest, saying that his party would not allow the “benaami wazeer-e-azam” to establish a beywardi aamriat (dictatorship).
“Attack on [the] speaker of [a] federating unit is unacceptable. [An] undemocratic attempt to dislodge Sindh govt. Failed before will fail again. Independent institutions shouldnt unwittingly be part of political engineering,” he said on Twitter.
PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari held a press conference at 3pm, and had asked his fellow PPP leaders to converge in the capital.
The accountability watchdog is due to present him before a magistrate on Thursday to seek his remand.
According to reports, NAB has been carrying out an inquiry against Durrani for a long time and decided to to arrest him after making significant progress.
Geo cited unnamed sources saying “an importing meeting” of the NAB took place in agency’s headquarters in the capital during which participants were informed about Durrani’s presence in the capital.
They said Siraj Durrani was shifted to NAB office after arresting from the hotel.
PM Khan presides meeting to review anti-money laundering drive
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan reviewed the ongoing efforts being made to check money laundering which he said posed a serious threat to the country calling for drastic measures.
According to an estimate, the country loses over $10 billion to $12 billion in revenue every year due to money-laundering and related activities.
Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem, Special Assistant to PM on Accountability Shehzad Akber, Director General ISI Lt-Gen. Syed Asim Munir Ahmed Shah, Secretary Interior, Chairmen Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Director General Anti Narcotics Force (ANF), home secretaries and other senior officers attended the meeting held in the capital.
The premier directed all the stakeholders to double their efforts in countering the money laundering practices by ensuring that criminals indulged in such practices should not go scot-free.
PM Khan observed that personal coffers were filled abroad through illegal practice of money-laundering, which had not only seriously harmed the country, but also sent the nation into the quagmire of debts.
Earlier on Tuesday, the premier ordered the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to flex its muscles against big tax evaders and make them cough up nearly Rs200 billion in the next four months amid his annoyance over poor show of the tax machinery.
He also ordered the FBR to immediately activate the Directorate General of Immovable Properties to confiscate those assets that are declared below their market values.
He asked the FBR to launch a full scale campaign that should target only those people who enjoy lavish lifestyles but are not in the tax net. Khan passed these directions in a meeting with his economic team.
The PM assured the FBR that there would be no political intervention in its working.