Shaking grounds revealed corrupt leaders

The world stood shook, when in 2005 Pakistan faced one of the most devastating earthquake disasters of all times. With over millions of causalities, Pakistan went through darkest of times when every country- ally or not -came forth to stand hand in hand united for the sake of humanity.

Over a decade now, Pakistanis are once again taken by surprise by the alarming revelation of a British newspaper ‘The Daily Mail’, alleging the opposition Leader of renown PLM-N Mian Shahbaz Shareef of money laundering from the UK earthquake grant, during his tenure as Punjab’s Chief Minister. As a nation already being circled by the money drenched hawks, there has been a massive out-cry. The former government’s spokesperson has presented no strong rejection with any aided proof of such allegation, making everyone more suspicious of this heinous act.

The Sharif family has been pushed against the wall after being convicted in case of corruption and repeated money laundering allegations, already putting the Head of N family Mian Nawaz Sharif behind bars. Another strong representative of PML-N, and Son of he Mr. Shabazz, Hamza Sharif have also been detained by NAB.

Where exactly did the stir arise from? Published on 14th July, 2019 Daily Mail quoted Mian Shabazzshared as the ‘the poster boy’ in the flashy Headlines boldly stating, ‘Did the family of Pakistani politician who has become the poster boy for British overseas aid STEAL funds meant for earthquake victims, asks DAVID ROSE’. As much as an uproar the label has caused, the already in limelight family has come off as no surprise to most of us. With NAB watchdogs on the loose, many representatives of PML-N have been arrested or have been taking refuge in hiding.

For years during his tenure, Mr. Shahbaz Shareef has been fed as ‘Third World poster boy’ by Britain’s department for international development with over 500 million pounds of UK taxpayers in the form of aid. Most recently during his tenure, the heads of DFID’S office were satisfied with the progress of their aid money quoting ‘seeing Punjab reform at a pace rarely seen’.  He was also invited to celebrate Queen’s birthday celebration where he was seen toasting mango juice towards the Queen. While such gesture till point has been a promising act of reliance towards Pakistan. In most recent revelation by Daily Mail, the investigators say that during all this time Shahbaz and his family has been keenly embezzling millions of pounds back to Britain, in a clear picture of money laundering.

These allegations have been called upon as a tactical move against the Sharif family, to ground them further into ‘false allegation’ by the current government. The PML-N spokesperson has openly accused Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Khan as the main man behind the motive.

 The report, however, red that DFID has given more aid money to Pakistan upfront from 2014 with over 463 million pounds, focusing upon Punjab as their main hub of funding. It further stated that legal documents provide a clear cut proof that how Shabaz’s son in law has been responsible for up to 1 million pounds of aid which was to be used to rebuild the lives of earthquake victims. It was cleverly laundered back to Birmingham and transferred to the family’s accounts in banks of UK. The report further alleged that British’s national crime agency is working closely with Pakistani investigators and keeping in regards the whereabouts of Shabazz’s family who have been residing in London.

The mail quoted these main points;

  • ‘’Legal documents allege that Shabazz’s son-in-law received about £1 million from a fund established to rebuild the lives of earthquake victims – to which DFID gave £54 million from UK taxpayers;
  • Investigators have launched inquiries into alleged thefts from DFID-funded schemes to give poor women cash to lift them out of poverty and to provide healthcare for rural families;
  • Stolen millions were laundered in Birmingham and then allegedly transferred to Shahbaz’s family’s accounts by UK branches of banks including Barclays and HSBC;
  • Self-confessed Birmingham money-launderer Aftab Mehmood told the MoS that he had his accounts audited every three months by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – who failed to notice anything was amiss;
  • Britain’s National Crime Agency is working closely with Pakistani investigators and Home Secretary Sajid Javid is discussing the possible extradition of members of Shahbaz’s family who have taken refuge in London;
  • Aware of how widespread corruption is in Pakistan, DFID has been running a £1.75 million project designed to ‘reduce the exposure to fraud and corruption’ of UK aid. But although it says it is already vigilant, DFID admits that, to date, it has referred just one individual to the Pakistani authorities for trying to steal UK funds.’’

The whole report can be read here

Surprisingly, the DFID has rebutted the claims of Daily Mail report, stating that the funds were only transferred once the work intended out of those funds were completed. The funds were provided once the work was completed, audited and verified. It further clarifies that UK taxpayer money remains in safe hands and has always been utilized in ‘exactly what they have paid for’.

However, as we progress with reports the news have taken a new twist. Acting upon the allegations, a UK citizen Aftab Mehmood has been taken in custody claiming that he has taken millions of pounds across the border on behalf of Shahbaz family. Keeping this in regard, son of Shabaz Shareef Suleman rejected the allegations, quoting all the agenda as ‘political-hunt’ conspiracy against the family.

The Prime minister of Pakistan has formed a special commission under the name of Asset Recovery Unit and has openly challenged Shahbaz Sharif to take the claims to London court if they are false.

In a detailed international investigation verdict, it says that the family’s net worth was only PKR 29.8 million in 2003 and by 2018 their entire asset’s worth was over PKR 39.74 billion. The family’s owned accounts and business could not have channelled such a revenue alone, making the family seem even more suspicious.

In amidst all of allegations and twists and turns, what most of the people are overlooking is the sentimental wave of hurt that is widespread amongst people of Pakistan at the moment. Already standing at a shaming rank of 117th in world integrity, Pakistanis have no heart in letting their name stoop lower than they already have become, across borders.

Even though, the President of the N-League has initiated taking action against the newspaper and formed a council in London in an attempt to sue it as portraying a ‘false’ and ‘fabricated’ story. Our main concern remains standstill.  How and who should we Pakistanis trust now? The truth which world sketches for us or a man given endless opportunities of being the ‘khadam-e-alla’ of Punjab?

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