On December 23, 2019, Ahsan Iqbal, a senior leader of the PML-N, was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in a case related to a sports complex in Punjab.
After his arrest, it was alleged by politicians and social media users that due to his corruption, in executing the project, the public exchequer suffered a loss of billions of rupees.
A recent court order proves that the allegations against Iqbal were false.
In December 2019, Fayaz ul Hassan Chohan, a former provincial minister and a leader of the PTI, claimed in a news program on AbbTakk television, that Iqbal was involved in “mega corruption” in the name of Narowal Sports City.
“The Narowal complex is worth Rs3 billion,” Chohan said, “Contracts were awarded in a dubious manner.”
Another senior leader of the PTI, Shahbaz Gill, tweeted in July 2019 that Iqbal will soon be in prison, with the leadership of his political party, due to the Narowal corruption case.
“Those who looted this country are now crying about the principles of democracy,” Gill wrote.
Similarly, a former federal minister, Faisal Vawda, also tweeted in December 2019 accusing Iqbal of being “a bigger robber” than PML-N’s party head, Nawaz Sharif.
“I will reveal details about his front company and a list of his relatives soon,” Vawda had claimed, “Their plunder brought the country to the brink of destruction. Such people should hang for at least three days.”
On September 21, 2022, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) acquitted Iqbal in the Narowal Sports City case.
The verdict, authored by Justice Athar Minallah, stated that the anti-corruption body, NAB, could not prove charges of corruption against the petitioner, Iqbal, or that he personally benefited from the Narowal project.
“The allegation of misuse of authority is also without any basis,” the court wrote, “We have repeatedly asked the learned special prosecutor and the investigating officer of the Bureau to show that the petitioner has misused his authority or that he may have been involved in corruption or corrupt practices… They were not able to satisfy us.”
The National Sports City complex was approved by the government-run Central Development Working Party (CDWP) first in 1999 and then in 2008. While construction began in 2009.
NAB had accused Iqbal of misusing his public office to benefit his constituents by approving the project and allocating a large amount of money for its completion.
But the IHC noted in its nine-page order that NAB’s investigating officer was asked to explain the composition and working of CDWP, as well as how projects were included in the Public Sector Development Programs (PSDP). “Regrettably, he was not aware of the composition and functions of CDWP nor the manner in which projects were considered and included in PSDP,” the Court added.
Justice Minallah, the then chief justice of the IHC, also pointed out that “it was ironic” that allegations were made against Iqbal during a period when he was sitting on the opposition benches.
“The project [Narowal Sports City] was definitely executed for the benefit of the general public,” the order read, adding that the reference and proceedings by NAB against the politician were “without lawful authority.”
Iqbal was incarcerated for two months, between December 2019 to February 2020.
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