Shahbaz Sharif says ‘looted money’ will be retrieved

LONDON: Punjab Chief Minister-designate Shahbaz Sharif warned that the PML-N government will initiate a transparent and acceptable accountability mechanism to recover the stolen wealth of Pakistan’s taxpayers from the corrupt elements.

Addressing a press conference in London, the former Punjab chief minister, who was here on a private visit for two days, said that his party didn’t believe in victimisation of anyone as “it will mean wasting time and being unfair to the historic mandate given to us by the nation” but said that the swindled money would be recovered.

Sharif was asked if his party would go after those who are alleged to have committed massive fraud during the last five years of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government. Shahbaz Sharif was accompanied by Muhammad Sarwar, Scottish Pakistani businessman and Britain’s first ever Labour MP, and Nasir Butt, PML-N UK’s acting president.

Shahbaz Sharif said that the 11 May election was unprecedented not also because the PML-N won a historic mandate but also because for the first time in the electoral history of Pakistan, it was a three-way contest, with the addition of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) in the race. Sharif alleged that sections of the media “organised campaign for Imran Khan’s PTI”.

“We felt that it was a one-sided campaign the way media highlighted Imran Khan but the people of Pakistan gave us a historic mandate. It’s a great turning point for Pakistan because the people of Pakistan showed seriousness and kept facts before them, not only in the Punjab but all over Pakistan,” he said.

He alleged that the PPP used the “looted wealth of Pakistanis” on running television and print adverts against his person and the PML-N but didn’t succeed in its aims and Imran Khan also used lots of funds on television campaigns.

The former chief minister Punjab said that his party could have easily formed the government in KPK and went against the advice of Maulana Fazlur Rehman but “Nawaz Sharif showed sagacity and gave Imran Khan’s party a chance to form their government.”

He said that the PML-N, despite enjoying a clear majority now, will form alliances at all levels to deal with the “daunting challenges the country faces through collective wisdom”.

Shahbaz Sharif assured the overseas Pakistani that in the next general election, they will be able to cast their votes and he will ensure that everything is done to facilitate their voting right but he didn’t mention if his party will support the right of dual nationals to stand for the public posts. Sharif requested Muhammad Sarwar, who originally hails from Faisalabad, to prepare recommendations about what measures can be taken to help the overseas Pakistanis and how Pakistani missions and embassies abroad can become community hubs.

He called on the overseas Pakistanis to invest in Pakistan. “We need investment in Pakistan. Due to the economic mismanagement and bad policies, investors have fled Pakistan. They were asked for bribes and commission cut. I can say with confidence that under Nawaz Sharif, the situation in Pakistan will change. He has already said that he will go for simplicity and will do everything to make Pakistan self-reliant.”

Speaking about the energy crisis, Shahbaz Sharif said that circular debt combined with the corruption of politicians has contributed to aggravating the problem. He said that the previous government as well as the officials linked with producing electricity had all been involved in corruption. He promised that the poorest sections of the society will not be billed in the same way as the richest class. “The system is unfair. We will tax the rich and benefit the poor consumers. They shouldn’t be paying the bills at the same rate when they live in two different worlds.”

Shahbaz Sharif thanked Muhammad Sarwar for helping his party win the election. As reported in this paper previously, the former Labour MP played a crucial role in helping the PML-N win several seats from Faisalabad and the surrounding areas. Answering a question about the fate of Pervez Musharraf, Sharif said that the former military dictator’s case was in the court and hoped that the courts would deal with his case as per the spirit of the Constitution.

He said that it was too early to say whether his party would form an alliance with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). “Let’s see how it goes,” remarked Shahbaz Sharif.

Muhammad Srawar congratulated the Sharif brothers over their “historic victory” and said that he had decided to support them after seeing the performance shown by Shahbaz Sharif. He said that no doubt Imran Khan has emerged as a credible and the second most popular leader and deserves respect but he needs to perform in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

About speculations that he might be made Governor Punjab or Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK, Sarwar said that he was not after any position and believed in selflessly serving the interests of Pakistan. “I have seen enough in politics and business and I am really not after any protocol or privilege. Pakistan is surrounded by crises and we all need to come together to help it,” he added. (Courtesy: The News)