On Saturday, a Lahore accountability court acquitted former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and others in the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme case.
In a recent development, AC judge Ali Zulqurnain declared the verdict, acquitting Shehbaz Sharif, senior bureaucrat Fawad Hasan Fawad, former director-general of the Lahore Development Authority Ahad Khan Cheema, and other individuals involved in the Ashiana Housing Case.
The decision comes after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) stated that former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, during his tenure as Chief Minister of Punjab, did not derive any personal benefit from government funds or misuse his public office in the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme case. The NAB also cleared other co-accused of any wrongdoing.
This exoneration follows a series of investigations, including a recent clearance in a money laundering case, providing a clean chit for Shehbaz Sharif and his family.
The Ashiana scandal surfaced in January 2018 when NAB accused Sharif, then the opposition leader, of abusing his authority by unlawfully directing the cancellation of the contract related to the housing project during his chief ministerial term in 2014.
According to the reference, in March 2014, Shehbaz Sharif visited the Ashiana-e-Iqbal project site and intervened in its bidding process. The Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) was overseeing the project, but after Sharif’s visit, he decided to transfer the project to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA). This decision led to the award of the contract to Lahore Casa Developers (JV), resulting in a Rs715 million loss to the exchequer.
The NAB had detained Shehbaz Sharif in connection with the scam on October 5, 2018, at its Lahore office during an interrogation regarding the Saaf Pani Company scam. NAB alleged that the contract, initially won by Chaudhry Latif and Sons, was later awarded to Lahore Casa Developers, a proxy group of Paragon City (Pvt) Limited, reportedly owned by then Railways Minister Saad Rafique.
The arrests of senior bureaucrat Fawad Hasan Fawad, former director-general Ahad Khan Cheema, and others occurred later in the same year. With the recent acquittal, this chapter of the Ashiana Housing Case concludes with the court’s decision in favor of Shehbaz Sharif and the co-accused.