A Lahore accountability court on Tuesday remanded PTI President Chaudhry Parvez Elahi to the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) till August 21 in a case pertaining to bribes over development project contracts.
A day earlier, the former Punjab chief minister was arrested by the anti-corruption watchdog shortly after he was released from Adiala jail. He was set free upon the completion of his 30-day detention, which was under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) ordinance.
But as soon as he walked out of Adiala jail’s gate, he was taken into custody by a NAB team, headed by Deputy Director Najamul Hassan. The team consisted of personnel from the bureau’s Rawalpindi and Lahore zones.
Later, police obtained a one-day transitory remand of the PTI leader from a court in Rawalpindi.
The NAB alleges that Elahi received bribes/kickbacks in exchange for getting the “contracts of road schemes of Gujrat Highways Division awarded to favourite/hand-picked contractors”.
His son Moonis Elahi, Mahr Azmat Hayat and others are also accused in the case. The case claims that the co-accused were “involved in causing loss to the government exchequer to the tune of millions of rupees against receipt of commission/kickbacks and committed offences of corruption and corrupt practices” under Section 9(a) of the NAB ordinance, 1999.
Earlier today, a frail-looking Elahi was presented before the accountability court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Zubair Shahzad Kiyani.
At the outset of the hearing today, Elahi’s lawyer Amjad Pervaiz requested the court to grant him five minutes to talk to his client.
When the proceedings commenced, NAB counsel Waris Ali Janjua said four suspects had previously been arrested in the said case.
“As the chief minister of Punjab, Parvez Elahi announced development packages worth Rs72 billion for Gujrat alone,” he contended, adding that the accountability bureau had prepared a list of 200 such projects.
Elahi, Janjua claimed, violated the law and gave “fast track approval” for the aforementioned projects, adding that the PTI president’s son Moonis Elahi had also held several meetings on “kickbacks of the shares”.
“Money was released even before work on the development projects commenced,” the NAB lawyer went on to say, adding that this was a violation under the law and the accountability bureau had evidence pertaining to these charges.
For his part, Elahi’s laywer Pervaiz said cases against his client’s arrests were currently being hearing the Supreme Court and Lahore High Court.
“The court may approve Elahi’s physical remand till Monday (Aug 21) as by then the SC and LHC verdict will also be announced,” he suggested.
Janjua, however, interjected here and said NAB was seeking Elahi’s physical remand for 14 days. However, ADSJ Kiyani remarked that the matter would be decided by the court.
Subsequently, the judge handed Elahi in NAB custody till Aug 21.
Arrest and rearrests
Elahi is among several PTI leaders and workers who have been arrested amid the state’s crackdown on the PTI leadership following the May 9 riots during protests over party chief Imran Khan being whisked away by the Rangers at the Islamabad High Court premises.
He was first arrested on June 1 from outside his Lahore residence by the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) for allegedly taking kickbacks in development projects.
The next day, he was discharged by a Lahore court but was rearrested by the ACE in a similar case registered in its Gujranwala region. However, a Gujranwala court had then discharged him on June 3 in two corruption cases pertaining to the embezzlement of funds.
Nevertheless, even after being discharged, the ACE then rearrested Elahi for “illegal recruitments” in the Punjab Assembly.
On June 9, a special anti-corruption court had given the ACE a “last opportunity” to present the record of the illegal appointments case.
The same day, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) came into action and initiated another inquiry against Elahi for his alleged involvement in embezzlement in development projects in Gujrat and Mandi Bahauddin.
After a sessions court on June 12 had set aside a judicial magistrate’s decision of Elahi’s acquittal in the embezzlement case, the next day, a judicial magistrate again sent him to judicial lockup after the LHC suspended the said order of the sessions court.
On June 20, Elahi finally secured relief from an anti-corruption court in Lahore but could not be released from jail as orders for his release were not delivered to the prison administration.
The same day, the Federal Investigation Agency booked him, his son Moonis Elahi and three others on charges of money laundering.
Subsequently, the next day, the FIA took him into custody from jail and he was sent to jail on a 14-day judicial remand in the money laundering case.
On June 26, a Lahore district court again sent Elahi to jail on a 14-day judicial remand in connection with a money laundering case, shortly after the FIA arrested him from outside the Camp Jail.
Then on July 4, a Lahore anti-terrorism court had dismissed Elahi’s post-arrest bail plea as not maintainable in a case of attacking a police team that raided his house to arrest him in an inquiry by the ACE.
About a week later, the LHC instructed Inspector General of Prisons IG Mian Farooq to address the PTI president’s complaints regarding the lack of basic facilities provided to him in jail.
On July 12, an FIA plea against the denial of Elahi’s physical remand in a case of unexplained banking transactions was dismissed by a Lahore sessions court.
Two days later, the LHC had restrained the police and the ACE from arresting the former Punjab chief minister in any undisclosed case. However, he was then detained at Lahore’s Camp Jail under Section 3 of the MPO.
On Monday, soon after he was released, the former Punjab chief minister was arrested again.