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Pakistan arrests PML-N leader Sohail Zia Butt for misappropriation of funds

Islamabad, Sep 2 (Calcutta Tube) In a major development Wednesday, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Pakistan’s Punjab province arrested Sohail Zia Butt, father of PML-N legislator Omer Sohail and a close relative of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, leading to heated exchanges between the police and Butt’s party supporters.

Sohail Zia Butt was accused by the NAB of misappropriation of funds worth over 80 million rupees in cooperative companies scam. He was declared a proclaimed offender by the NAB court in 2001 in absentia because he had gone out of country.

Butt returned to Pakistan in 2008 before the general elections after spending more than seven years abroad.

However, no action was taken on the case against him for almost two years. On Thursday, he went to attend a funeral in Lahore’s Model Town area where the police picked him up.

The NAB is under the control of the central government where Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) is in power.

On the other hand, the Punjab governemnt is in the hands of PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) and both parties have had a bitter-sweet relationship of late.

PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif has accused the central government repeatedly of using the NAB for political gains, while Federal Law Minister Babar Awan has been taking on Sharif brothers for their alleged lack of governance in Punjab province.

Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Punjab province, is the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah expressed surprise over Butt’s arrest and said the PML-N government was not taken into confidence about it. Butt’s son and member of national assembly Omar Sohail said, ‘My father has been abducted by NAB’.

‘The case has no basis and the PPP government is trying to politically victimise us,’ he alleged.

There were scuffles and hot words exchanged outside the NAB office in Lahore when PML-N supporters tried to break the security cordon in a bid to reach the arrested leader.

‘We will be forced to fire if you infringe the security cordon,’ a police officer said. Omar Sohail responded angrily and challenged the officer to shoot if he could. ‘I will not leave the premises without meeting my father,’ he said.

On the intervention of senior police officials, Omar was finally allowed to meet his father, who is also a former member of provincial assembly. No PPP leader or NAB official was ready to comment on the reasons for this abrupt action.

Butt has been arrested under section 31-A of the NAB ordinance. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik was also convicted under the same offence during the regime of former president Pervez Musharraf and has been given a presidential pardon.

(Awais Saleem can be contacted at ians.pakistan@gmail.com)

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