LAHORE: On Saturday, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ruled Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to be “innocent” in the Ashiana Housing case, noting that the contract for the project had no indications of corruption.

The accountability office reported that neither the national coffers nor PM Shehbaz received any financial gain from the initiative.

The anti-graft organisation said in its study that “it is proved beyond any doubt that the treasury didn’t suffer any loss.”

In addition, it stated: “No evidence of misuse of powers was found against Shahbaz Sharif.”

The NAB assessment found no evidence of malice against the prime minister in the affair, which is expected to cause debate over the watchdog’s objectivity.

The study also claimed that Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s brother Kamran Kayani, who served as the previous army leader, didn’t harm the treasury either.

The investigation also revealed that Fawad Hasan Fawad, who at the time served as Shehbaz’s secretary for implementation in Punjab, did not accept a bribe in exchange for the contract.

According to the report, PM Shehbaz forwarded the Ashiana matter to the anti-corruption body in accordance with the law.

The study came to the conclusion that “the accountability court should rule on Shehbaz Sharif’s request for acquittal in accordance with the law.”

It should be recalled that the prime minister has been cleared in two significant NAB cases against him.

The anti-graft body had earlier this month ruled Prime Minister Shehbaz, his son Hamza Shehbaz, and others “innocent” in relation to Rs7 billion in charges made against them for having assets beyond their means and money laundering.

Ashiana Housing Scandal: What Is It?
The Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme was promoted as a low-cost housing programme when it was introduced in 2011.

However, allegations of wrongdoing quickly surfaced when unexplained delays in the distribution of finished units and votes appeared.

After a period of time, some prominent politicians came under criticism in 2018 for suspected corruption and abuse of funds, sparking an investigation by the anti-graft body.

PM Shehbaz was one among those accused of abusing his authority while serving as chief minister of Punjab in a probe into the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC).

According to a 2018 investigation, Shehbaz Sharif illegally seized the duties of the board of directors of the Punjab Land and Development Company (PLDC), abused his position, and conspired with Fawad and others.

Contracts for the construction and infrastructure of the Ashiana Iqbal Housing Project originally given to M/s Ch. A Latif and Sons were wrongfully revoked and given to Lahore Casa Developers (LCD), a stand-in for Paragon City Private Limited.

Additionally, it was claimed that the former CM improperly instructed PLDC to hand over the Ashiana Iqbal Punjab project to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), which was run by his close ally Ahad Khan Cheema, at a meeting on October 21, 2014.

Given that the PLDC was the firm founded to carry out such housing projects, Sharif’s decision was seen as being made in bad faith.

All three of the principal suspects were among those who were detained throughout the inquiry in 2018 and later freed.

On the PM’s request, the accountability court granted him a permanent exemption from appearing in the reference in September of last year.

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