More witnesses summoned in Ashiana housing scandal case

Bureau Report

LAHORE: An accountability court in Lahore has directed to produce more witnesses in Ashiana housing scandal case in the next hearing scheduled on Wednesday.

In the hearing, no witnesses were presented before the court for recording their statements. The prosecutor of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) told the court that the witness excused appearing in the hearing due to the death of a relative.

The judge asked the anti-corruption watchdog’s prosecutor to produce more witnesses in the case besides extending judicial remand of two accused, Ahad Cheema and Shahid Shafiq.

Later, the accountability court adjourned the hearing of Ashiana housing scandal case till September 10.

It is noteworthy to mention here that the court had given an exemption for physical appearance in the hearing to Shehbaz Sharif and Fawad Hasan Fawad. Muhammad Nawaz and Muhammad Shehbaz appeared before the court on behalf of Shehbaz Sharif and Fawad Hasan Fawad respectively.

Earlier on September 4, the accountability court had written a letter to Lahore High Court (LHC) seeking a period of one year to complete the Ashiana reference.

Judge Amjad Nazeer of the accountability court in his letter to the high court had sought extension in the completion period for Ashiana housing scheme reference.

The high court had ordered the accountability court on April 17 this year to complete the trial against the former chief minister of Punjab Shehbaz Sharif and other accused in the reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) within a period of three months.

Ashiana Housing Scheme reference

In the NAB reference Shehbaz Sharif, has been accused of misusing his authority to illegally issue directives for cancellation of contract with regard to the housing project in 2014.

In March 2014, the former chief minister had visited the Ashiana-e-Iqbal project site and halted its bidding process, according to the reference.

The Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) was looking after the project, but Mr Sharif after visiting the site decided to assign the project to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) which resulted in award of contract to the Lahore Casa Developers (JV), causing Rs715m loss to the exchequer, the reference reads.

The NAB had arrested Shehbaz Sharif in the scam on October 5, 2018 inside its Lahore office when he appeared there in response to it’s summon for questioning in connection with a probe into the Saaf Pani Company scam.

According to NAB, “the contract for the housing scheme was won by a construction company titled Chaudhry Latif and Sons but former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif and his aides awarded the Rs 14 billion contract to Lahore Casa Developers – a proxy group of Paragon City (Pvt) Limited, which is said to be owned by then Railways Minister Saad Rafique”.