PML-N leaders misused ‘Iqama’ for money laundering: Babar Awan
APP38-301220 ISLAMABAD: December 30 - Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz and Adviser to PM for Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan jointly addressing a press conference at PID Media Center. APP photo by Saleem Rana

ISLAMABAD, Dec 30 (APP): Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan Wednesday said the top leadership of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had misused the ‘Iqama’ (work and residential permit) they secured in different countries for money laundering.

Addressing a news conference along with Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi here, he rejected the statement of PML-N leader Maryam Safdar that her father Nawaz Sharif was wrongfully sentenced by the court over an ‘Iqama.’

He shared a ‘cycle of money-laundering’ by the PML-N leaders with the media persons that how the ill-gotten money was sent abroad, deposited in foreign accounts and some of it brought back to country for justifying their assets.

The advisor said the ‘Iqamas’ were of two types. One was secured by the hardworking community of Pakistanis, the ‘pride & asset’ of the nation, who sent their hard-earned money to Pakistan called ‘remittances’.

The second type that could be called ‘Political Iqama’ was managed by top position holders like former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, ex-interior minister Ahsan, Iqbal and ex-defence minister Khawaja Asif with an objective to legitimize their corruption and kickbacks in commission, he added.

Highlighting the modus operandi of such politicians, Babar Awan said getting ‘Iqamas’ they stood eligible for opening of foreign bank accounts abroad and as per the law they could not be questioned about source of the pouring in money in the respective country.

“Iqama holders are not considered Pakistanis, rather they are counted as locals due to having a permanent residency permit of that country.”

He said the ‘Political Iqama’ holders got ready their fake employment documents/contacts and made bogus companies for money-laundering.

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The money accumulated through corruption and kickbacks, he added, were shifted abroad through illegal means and deposited there in the bank accounts.

The trails of their bank accounts showed that most of the money was deposited in the form of cash, contrary to the fact that salaries against any ‘Iqama’ were submitted directly to the employees bank accounts by the employer, not in hard cash.

“This causes flight of capital out of the country and surge in the prices of daily edibles in the country,” he added.

The advisor said the laundered money was brought back to the country to justify their assets and businesses.

He questioned that as to why such top position holders needed to have ‘Iqamas’ abroad.

In a recent case [of Khawaja Asif], he said, it was dug out that the ill-gotten money was laundered to the United Arab Emirates and handed over to a front-man in the form of cash.

The front-man deposited the money in a foreign bank account and later transferred to a bank account in Pakistan.

Same tactics, he said, were used by absconder Ishaq Dar, Salman Shehbaz and Shehbaz Sharif.

In the past, he said such politicians had made a legislation what he called ‘facilitating law’ namely Protection of Economic Reforms Act-1992.

He said Khawaja Asif on April 12, 2018 had submitted an affidavit with the Islamabad High Court, stating that the owner of a UAE-based company Ilyas Ibrahim could visit Pakistan to testify his income as rightful.

He said when Khawaja Asif was asked to call in the company owner, but he did not do so like that of ‘Qatari Prince’.

He said Ilyas Ibrahim, a Lebanon national, was the same person who had a number of offshore companies as per the biggest revelation of the Panama Papers.

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Babar Awan said Khawaja Asif made a ‘bogus’ deal of millions of rupees for export of rice without having any genuine corporate office or business.

Under the deal, he said, Rs 100 million was sent to the frontman, which later returned to bank accounts in Pakistan.

He said the PML-N leadership believed that the assets beyond known means were not a crime but a business. ‘Living beyond known means of resources’ were never encouraged in any part of the world, he added.

The advisor made it clear that no one was above the law in Pakistan and reiterated firm resolve of the government to bring all the corrupt elements to justice.

Answering a question, Babar Awan expressed confidence that the pace of recovering the looted and laundered money would increase in the coming days.

To another question, he said as per the law it was mandatory for any parliamentarian to appear before the National Assembly Speaker or Senate Chairman in person and present his/her hand written resignation.

He cited the example of Javed Hashmi, who during an assembly session had announced his resignation after appearing before the National Assembly Speaker.

Commenting on the expiry of Nawaz Sharif’s passport, the parliamentary advisor said Nawaz would be considered illegal immigrant in the United Kingdom after expiry of his passport.

Britain deported illegal immigrants to their respective countries as it had done with an Indian businessman recently, he added.

Babar Awan viewed that Nawaz Sharif should return to Pakistan and face his their cases, as it was the only ‘way out.’