LAHORE    -  The National Accountability Bureau on Friday claimed to have arrested Punjab Minister for Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Muhammad Sibtain Khan on corruption charges.

The provincial minister has been accused of awarding illegal contracts and causing losses to the national kitty worth   billions of rupees. The PTI leader, Sibtain Khan, was allegedly involved in awarding tenders to his “favourite” company. He has also been accused of massive corruption in the mineral resources project in district Chiniot.

An official said the accused would be produced before an accountability court in Lahore by the NAB investigators to get his physical remand on Saturday.

Sibtain Khan, before joining the PTI, was member of the PML-Q. Sibtain Khan had held the provincial ministry for natural resources in 2007. Sibtain Khan belongs to Mianwali, the home district of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In July 2007, the accused had awarded the contract to an unknown company – Earth Resources Private Limited. The Punjab Mines Company had agreed to get only 20 percent shares in the joint venture that was totally illegal.

According to a spokesman, the Lahore NAB had initiated an inquiry against the accused after the case was referred to them by the Lahore High Court. The accused awarded a contract worth billions of rupees to a company having assets not more than Rs 2.5 million only.

The accused in connivance with others awarded the contract to ERPL Company in sheer violation of the rules and laws, the spokesman claimed. The said company had no previous experience of mining. Thus, the contract given to it was illegal and dubious.

The latest arrest comes amid massive crackdown on political leaders by the federal anti-corruption authority. Most recently, former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, and Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz were arrested by NAB on corruption charges.