In an unexpected turn of events, the Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government has been left flabbergasted as the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) found no proof of criminal conduct in corruption allegations levelled against the PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and his son Suleman. On Monday, after conducting a 17-month long probe the NCA submitted the investigation report to the Westminster court in which it stated that Shehbaz and Suleman were not involved in money laundering practices in Pakistan, Dubai and the UK. As a result, it had requested the court to set aside the accounts freezing orders. It must be noted that these accounts were frozen on the joint request of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) in December 2019. The request was led by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar. However, following the news, Akbar in a series of tweets stated that reports of ‘acquittal’ of Shehbaz and his son were factually incorrect as there was no trail conducted. He also further clarified that ARU had not requested to freeze the said accounts but instead they were frozen after “two suspicious transactions” were notified from the bank account of Suleman.
This verdict from the UK court is being hailed by the PML-N as vindication of the party’s senior leadership, who are now accusing PM Imran for ‘fabricating’ stories and ‘character assassination’. Whether the request initiated by the UK NCA to unfreeze the accounts help the Sharifs in the money laundering cases in Pakistan is yet to be seen as Shehbaz is currently under trail in Lahore court on corruption cases while Nawaz has been declared a proclaimed offender. But one thing is clear that it does leave the ruling PTI at a tight spot – that too just two-years before the general elections. The ruling PTI with its slogan of tabdeeli had entered the political arena with claims of returning looted money from corrupt leaders back to the country. But four-years down, little progress has been made in this regard apart from using NAB as a political tool for its own gains. All this, at the same time when the PML-N despite its intra-party discord is gaining back momentum with much gains in the recent cantonment board polls. It is time that the ruling party focuses its energies in the country’s progress than going on a defensive by holding pressers to make the same claims of ridding Pakistan from a corrupt mafia.