Pak's anti-graft body arrests former interior minister

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former interior minister and senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal was arrested on Monday for alleged corruption in a sports complex construction project. Iqbal, 60, the General Secretary of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was summoned by the National Accountable Bureau, Rawalpindi for probe into a case regarding alleged embezzlement in construction of a sports complex in Narowal. He was arrested when he arrived at the NAB office.

The NAB will produce him before an accountability court on Tuesday for his physical remand. He served as interior minister from August 2017 to May 2018.

Iqbal, who also served as planning and development minister and the deputy chairman of the planning commission, is charged with illegally using federal government funds meant for the sports city in Narowal under the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB). In a statement, the NAB said that “an inquiry on the subject matter (corruption Narowal Sports City Complex) is under process” and chairman NAB had issued his arrest warrants.

“In pursuance of warrant of arrest issued by worthy Chairman NAB, the accused Ahsan lqbal Chaudhry has been arrested,” it said. Before entering the NAB office on Monday, Iqbal told the media that when he was the planning minister in the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif-led government, several projects were incomplete, including the sports city.

He said the amount of money spent on the NSC had exceeded its original cost. Several opposition leaders from PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party had been arrested on allegations of corruption since Imran Khan came to power but none was convicted. Opposition parties allege that the tactic was being used to intimidate and create fear.

Reacting to Iqbal’s arrest, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif said there was a “NAB-Niazi nexus”, referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s role in the anti-corruption watchdog’s action. “The arrest of a man who strengthened Pak-China friendship and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is condemnable and regrettable,” Sharif said. PML-N spokesperson Marryium Aurangzeb said that it was another attempt by the government-controlled NAB “to silence opposition.”

“All those who are capable and speak the truth have been put in jail,” she added. PTI