Dubai: Pakistan’s outspoken opposition leader Maryam Nawaz Sharif who is daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has been arrested by National Accountability Bureau (NAB)- country’s anti-graft body.
Maryam who is also vice president of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) was detained by NAB related to Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.
According to Pakistani media reports, Maryam was taken in to custody as she was returning after meeting her jailed father Nawaz Sharif at the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore.
Maryam Nawaz Sharif was summoned to the NAB office today for questioning in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case but she was detained hours before her scheduled visit. Yousaf Abbas, a cousin of Maryam Nawaz Sharif has also been detained by NAB.
The government has confirmed the arrest. According to an official press release issued by NAB, Maryam and her cousin Yousuf Abbas have been arrested in connection to the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case. The PML-N vice president is now being taken to NAB headquarters.
On the directives of the NAB chairman, a team of doctors will conduct a medical examination on both detainees.
According to the press release, Maryam and Abbas will be presented before an accountability court in Lahore for remand tomorrow (Friday).
The arrest of the PML-N leader was mentioned by Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari during the National Assembly session. “In this Naya (New) Pakistan who have arrested Maryam Nawaz without any conviction,” Bilawal asked on the parliament floor.
Maryam had been given a questionnaire based on six questions in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) case, which she was due to answer by 3pm on Thursday. However, NAB officials reached Kot Lakhpat jail and detained her on her way back after she had met her father, reported Dawn news.
According to NAB, Maryam had excused herself from appearing before the accountability bureau on Tuesday and had gone to meet Nawaz Sharif in jail.
Warrants for Maryam were issued due to her non-appearance before NAB. The PML-N vice president had been shown the warrants before she was taken into custody, NAB sources confirmed to Dawn news.
PML-N leaders and supporters, including senior leaders Maryam Aurangzeb and Ahsan Iqbal, protested the development outside the National Assembly.
Maryam had appeared before NAB on July 31 to record her statement in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills reference. The statement was regarding ‘dubious’ business transactions of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) of which she was one of the major shareholders.
According to NAB, in January 2018 the PML-N government’s financial monitoring unit reported to NAB a huge suspicious transaction involving billions of rupees in the M/s Chaudhry Sugar Mills Ltd under Anti-Money Laundering Act.
The sources further confirmed that a NAB inquiry started in October 2018 detected that Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Shahbaz Sharif and the family of the late Abbas Sharif are shareholders in the company along with some foreigners of the UAE and the UK.
“Huge investments were made in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills from 2001 to 2017 in billions of rupees in the name of the foreigners issuing shares in millions to them, later on the same shares of the company were transferred back to Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Nawaz Sharif at various times without paying any consideration which led to the conclusion that names of foreigners were used as proxies to make huge investments in the company for the reason that Sharif family did not have white money for investment,” according to media reports.
NAB had re-summoned Maryam on August 8, and asked her to provide details of her shareholdings in the CSM, details of financial relations with foreign nationals. She was also asked to provide details of remittances/telegraphic transfers sent and received by her from abroad.
Accountability judge, Mohammad Bashir, on July 6 last year had convicted former premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam in the Avenfield properties reference and sentenced them to 10 years and seven years imprisonment, respectively. The Islamabad High Court, however, had suspended the sentence and released Maryam.
Opposition leaders condemn Maryam's arrest
PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, in a statement, condemned Maryam's arrest and termed it as a "wrong step".
"Maryam Nawaz's arrest in front of Nawaz Sharif and his grandchildren is extremely condemnable, regrettable and shameful," Shehbaz said.
"The government is blinded by political revenge and neither has the capacity nor the wisdom to understand the sensitivity of the situation. What message is being given to the public by the arrest of Maryam right before Eid?" questioned the PML-N chief.
PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also condemned Maryam's arrest in a strongly-worded speech on the floor of the house.
" History will remember that Imran Khan, who talked about justice [...] (sanctioned) the arrest of Ms Maryam Nawaz without a conviction," he declared before walking out in protest.
PML-N leader Iqbal accused the government of "concealing" something by "trying to divert the nation's attention from Kashmir" issue by arresting Maryam.
"Selected prime minister proved his friendship to [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi by giving him a gift. The ink on the joint resolution has not even dried yet and the nation has been divided by the arrest of Maryam Nawaz. Something is being concealed; national unity has been ripped apart by trying to divert the nation's attention from Kashmir [issue]," he tweeted.
PPP co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari also condemned Maryam's arrest and said that the anti-corruption watchdog "want to arrest his sister (Faryal Talpur) as well".
A resolution was also submitted in the Punjab Assembly against Maryam's arrest.