LAHORE - Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar on Thursday strongly defended the arrests of politicians belonging to the opposition and suggested them to accept plea bargain and return the looted money.

Addressing a news conference in Lahore, Akbar said that political leaders and their families would have to negotiate a deal with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Justice (retired) Javed Iqbal to get plea bargain.

He said that politicians such as ex-president Asif Ali Zardari, former PM Nawaz Sharif and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif or any of their family members could secure their release by returning the looted money. “They can return the looted money as we are also not interested in spending the public money on their security in jails,” he said.

Shahzad Akbar, whose press conference came shortly after Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif’s presser, said Shehbaz should not mislead the nation and should answer the questions.

“His son-in-law has fled the country and had no deal with Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA),” he said, and further said that Shehbaz did not answer a single question at the press conference about his absconding son-in-law.

Advises politicians to accept plea-bargain

“I do not understand his logic in the case of Naveed Ikram,” special assistant to the PM said while referring to the claim of Shehbaz Sharif that he would file a defamation suit against him in the UK court. Akbar challenged Shehbaz, and said he was anxiously awaiting the moment.

He said that mere talk of legal action from PML-N leader won’t work unless he received a notice from the court. “For the sake of God, plead your case in London‘s court,” the special assistant to the PM said to Shehbaz, and dispelled the notion that the government’s accountability drive was selective.

He was of the view that weak prosecution in cases was one of the reasons for poor governance in the past. “It will take time to fix the problems in order to ensure better prosecution in future,” Shahzad Akbar said.

He said the story published in the Daily Mail had laid bare the corruption of the whole Sharif family. “We know that earthquake took place in 2005, but we are asking for the three payments made to Shehbaz’s son-in-law Ali Imran through EERA funds which were meant for the quake-affected people,” he questioned.

PM’s Special Assistant on Accountability told media men that he would reveal the names of people involved in money laundering for the PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif next week.

“Don’t mislead the nation. Tell us why Rs60 million were given to Ali Imran,” he again questioned. “Next week, I will disclose the names of your political associates, involved in money laundering,” he warned the opposition leader.

Akbar said that on September 6, 2012, Ali Imran was paid Rs200 million. “In March 2013, he received Rs130 million and later he was paid Rs270 million. Also, a piece of land was bought for him for Rs130 million. The cheque was paid by Naveed Ikram and the power of attorney was with Ali Imran,” Akbar elaborated.

He said Shehbaz Sharif addressed the press conference in order to hush up his misdeeds. “Naveed Ikram was handed over to the authorities because he was poor while his co-accused Ali Imran was sent abroad,” the special assistant to the PM said.

“Two people committed the same crime. One was arrested while the other was sent abroad – only because he is son-in-law of Shehbaz Sharif.

Akbar said that the wife of Shehbaz Sharif and his sons had bought a house in Donga Galli and Johar Town in Lahore through money laundering and TTs. “Naveed Ikram has accepted the plea bargain while Ali Imran is an absconder. According to the law, his properties will be seized and recoveries will be made,” he said.