Former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and 10 others, including incumbent Federal Minister Ahad Cheema and Fawad Hassan Fawad, have been acquitted by a Lahore accountability court in the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme reference.
On November 2, Judge Malik Ali Zulqarnain Awan of the accountability court reserved the verdict after the conclusion of the final arguments by the counsels and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutors.
The acquittal applications were primarily based on the fact that all prosecution witnesses and approvers had retracted their statements, leaving little ground for a conviction. The court was urged to accept the acquittal pleas and acquit the accused of the charges.
Background and Implications of the NAB Reference
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed the reference against Sharif and others in 2018. The allegations centred around causing substantial financial damage to the national exchequer by awarding a contract to a construction firm without a competitive bidding process. However, a NAB report submitted in May found no evidence of financial corruption or misuse of authority by Shehbaz Sharif, undermining the claims of misuse of authority and corruption under the National Accountability Ordinance of 1999.
Shehbaz Sharif had been arrested on October 5, 2018, in connection with the case, while Ahad Cheema was detained earlier in the same year. Both were later released on bail. Additionally, earlier acquittals in the case included Kamran Kiyani, brother of former army chief Ashfaque Parvez Kiyani, and Nadeem Zia of Paragon City, citing a lack of evidence.
The NAB had accused Cheema of receiving illegal benefits from Paragon City Developers as a reward for awarding the housing scheme contract to their proxy firm, Bismillah Engineering, an allegation that the court’s verdict has legally challenged.