LAHORE - The National Accountability Bureau on Thursday arrested Fawad Hassan Fawad, principal secretary to ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and sent him to lock-up on charges of corruption and misuse of powers.

Fawad, a top bureaucrat who served on key posts for several years, was put behind bars shortly after he visited the headquarters of the anti-graft body to respond to allegations.

The Bureau officially confirmed Fawad’s arrest Thursday afternoon. He will be produced before an accountability court by the NAB investigators Friday (today).

The move comes only a day before an Islamabad-based accountability court is scheduled to give its verdict in the Avenfield property case against the former prime minister, which was reserved after months-long proceedings.

Sharif who has been in London for many days to look after his ailing wife has sought a week’s delay in the announcement of the decision to be able to be present in the courtroom to hear the verdict. The court is likely to pass its order on the application Friday morning.

An official confirmed to The Nation that the senior bureaucrat was arrested by NAB in connection with the ongoing probe involving Ashiyana Housing Project, a government-sponsored housing scheme, to help low-income people get reasonable residences at affordable prices.

“The NAB Lahore has arrested accused Fawad Hassan Fawad in a case related to Ashiyana-e-Iqbal Project,” an official of the Bureau said. “Accused Fawad Hassan Fawad misused his powers when he was serving as secretary (implementation) for Punjab chief minister (Shehbaz Sharif).”

The official also explained that the accused had illegally ordered Tahir Khurshid, the then chief executive of Punjab Land Development Company, to suspend the contract of the Ashiyana Iqbal Project. Subsequently, the contract awarded to Ch Latif and Sons by the provincial government was suspended.

The accused also concealed the report of the inquiry committee about the contract from the senior officials due to his mala fide intention. The inquiry committee had been working under the supervision of the then Finance Secretary Tariq Bajwa. According to the findings of the inquiry committee, the contract awarded to Ch Latif and Sons was legal and approved as per rules. The contract of the Ashiyana Iqbal Project was suspended eight months after it was approved and awarded.

The contractor, Ch Latif and Sons, had paid Rs 70 million in advance as mobilisation charges. The work was also in progress when the project was suspended. Ultimately, the government had to pay Rs 5.9 million as penalty.

The “illegal actions” taken by Fawad Hassan Fawad delayed the project and multiplied its cost. The Lahore NAB summoned the accused on several occasions, but he appeared before the investigation team twice.

“Fawad has also been accused of purchasing six mobile health units at exorbitant rates when he was serving as the Punjab health secretary,” another official said.

In 2010, the accused purchased six mobile health units at the rate of Rs 55 million per unit. The accused illegally got a job at a private bank from September 2005 to July 2006 although the establishment secretary had rejected his application for appointment.

The accused also worked under the Sprint Energy, a subsidiary of the JS Group. He was also involved in the transfer of six CNG stations from one district to another district by using fake NOCs.

Presently, the accused is serving as director general, Civil Services Academy.

A NAB spokesman said the actions of the accused caused losses worth billions of rupees to the national kitty. The NAB officials will produce the accused before the accountability court on Friday (today) to get his physical remand.

A source close to the NAB investigators say more arrests are expected in the days ahead since the anti-graft watchdog has been investigating several mega corruption cases.

Nawaz laments arrest

Online adds: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday said that the arrest of senior bureaucrat Fawad Hassan Fawad in Rs 14 billion Ashiana Housing Scheme scam is regrettable.

Talking to media in London outside Harley Street Clinic, he said that he had heard the news of Fawad’s arrest and lamented the news.