Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Pakistan former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi held in graft probe

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A former Pakistani prime minister was been arrested on suspicion of corruption, in a continuing graft purge that the opposition says is driven by political victimisation.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was arrested by the national anti-corruption body in a case related to a natural gas contract.

His detention on the way to a press conference in Lahore means two former prime ministers and a president are now behind bars.

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Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister, came to power last year after a long-running populist campaign to clean up the country’s corruption-riddled politics and to recover billions stolen by the political elite.

Transparency international ranks Pakistan 117 out of 180 in a tally of how corruption-free countries are viewed.

Read MorePakistan ex-President Asif Ali Zardari arrested in separate corruption case

Yet Pakistan also has a history of politically motivated corruption purges, some of them used by the powerful military to undermine civilian rivals.

A copy of the arrest warrant shared by Mr Abbasi’s PML-N party, indicated he was accused of “corruption and corrupt practices”.

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Last year the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordered an inquiry into his involvement in a liquefied natural gas terminal project. Authorities are investigating claims that Abbasi was involved in awarding a contract to a firm in which he was a shareholder.

He denies any wrongdoing.

Mr Abbasi served as prime minister for less than a year after his predecessor, Nawaz Sharif, was ousted from power by corruption allegations.

Read MorePakistan: NAB to file supplementary reference against Zardari in money laundering case

Shehbaz Sharif, president of the PML-N said: “We strongly protest Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s arrest. The institution of NAB has become Imran Khan’s puppet. Our spirits cannot be wavered by such cheap tactics.”

Nawaz Sharif, is also in prison, after he was handed a seven year sentence last year for failing to account for his overseas assets.

Asif Ali Zardari, a former president, was arrested in June in a multi-million dollar money laundering case.

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The widower of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was held after a bail extension was rejected in a case alleging millions of pounds have been spirited out of the country.

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