The anti-corruption officials in Pakistan have arrested Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and former foreign minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, on Tuesday for allegedly having assets beyond means of income. Marriyum Aurangzeb, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PM-N) spokesperson said that he was taken into the custody by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
As per the statement released by NAB’s Lahore office, the arrest was executed in “assets beyond known sources of income case.” The bureau further added that Asif had a Dubai work permit (iqama) from 2004 to 2008. During this period, he had earned a total of PKR 136 million for his services as a consultant legal advisor. In November, NAB had directed Asif to submit the details of the salary he had received along with other information, but he had failed to comply.
Pakistani daily Dawn cited NAB and said that Asif was elected as senator in 1991. At that time his total assets were worth PKR 5.1 million. By 2018, his assets increased to a total of PKR 221 million, which is not justifiable with his sources of income. NAB further said that Asif was running a Benami company using his employee, Tariq Mir’s name. In Tariq Mir and Company’s account, a total of PKR 400 million were deposited, but there were no income sources attached to the deposit. This year, NAB had alleged that he established an illegal housing complex by the name Kent Housing Society in Sialkot.
Nawaz Sharif’s reaction
The arrest of Khawaja Asif, who is a close aide of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has stirred up the political arena in the neighbouring country. Former PM Nawaz Sharif in a statement lashed out at Imran Khan’s government over his arrest and called it a joke. In a tweet in Urdu, he said, “The arrest of Khawaja Asif is morally wrong. The government’s bewilderment can be seen from such heinous acts. They are bringing their end closer.”
خواجہ آصف کی گرفتاری سلیکٹرز اور سلیکٹڈ کے گٹھ جوڑ کا انتہائی قابل مذمت واقعہ ہے۔ ایسی بھونڈی حرکتوں سے حکومتی بوکھلاہٹ کا اندازہ لگایا جاسکتا ہے لیکن ان حرکتوں سے یہ اپنے انجام کو مزید قریب لا رہے ہیں۔ اندھے سیاسی انتقام کے دن گنے جا چکے ہیں۔— Nawaz Sharif (@NawazSharifMNS) December 29, 2020
Talking to Geo News’s journalist Murtaza Ali Shah, Sharif said that the arrest shows the desperation of the government.
Sharif’s daughter and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz has called the arrest “kidnapping by NAB.” In a statement, she said that ‘someone’ had called Asif and asked him to stop supporting Nawaz Sharif. She added that the person claimed that the cases against Asif would be dropped if he stops standing by Sharif. When Asif refused, he threatened him to be prepared for the consequences.
میں حلفاً کہہ رہی ہوں خواجہ آصف صاحب کو کہا گیا کہ آپ نوازشریف کے بیانیے سے اختلاف کریں اور کہیں مجھے نوازشریف کے بیانیے سے اختلاف ہے آپ کے خلاف مقدمات 15,20میں ختم ہوجائینگےلیکن انہوں نےکہا آپ نےمجھے جو سزا دینی ہےدیں نہ میں نوازشریف کے بیانیےسے پیچھےہٹونگا نہ انکا ساتھ چھوڑونگا pic.twitter.com/i1jDsnWvP3— PML(N) (@pmln_org) December 29, 2020
Asif is now among several leaders facing corruption, including party president Shehbaz Sharif, senior members Hamza Shehbaz, Rana Sanaullah, Javed Latif, Ahsan Iqbal, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Saad Rafique, among others. The arrest is being linked to the protests being organized by Pakistan Democratic Movement, an alliance of 11 opposition parties, across Pakistan demanding Prime Minister Imran Khan’s resignation.