Where is govt’s Sherlock Holmes? – Ansaar Abbasi


The PTI government’s Sherlock Holmes- Barrister Shahzad Akbar- is missing from the media for the last two months.

Otherwise fond of addressing press conferences and attending TV talk shows quite frequently, the barrister has not addressed any press conference for the last several weeks, and is rarely seen even in talk shows.

The man leading the Assets Recovery Unit (ASU)- which was created to bring back US$ 200 billion stashed by Pakistanis in banks abroad- in the PM Secretariat is also not attending mobile calls. He does not respond to messages either. His staff in the PM’s Secretariat when approached said that the barrister has gone outstation, and is busy in meetings.

In his absence, FBR Chairman Shabber Zaidi has stated more than once that it is hard to bring home, what he quoted, $190 billion illegally gotten money of Pakistanis stashed abroad. There is no explanation coming from the barrister side to justify the very existence of the Unit after the government has admitted that it can’t bring back Pakistanis’ billions of dollars from abroad.

Barrister Shahzad is Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Special Assistant on Accountability. Soon after coming into power, the PTI government had established Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) to retrieve assets hidden overseas.

The Unit comprises of officials from the State Bank of Pakistan, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and intelligence agencies.

In one of his initial press conferences, Barrister Shahzad Akbar had said that members of the ARU had already got details of over 10,000 properties in Dubai and England. He had complained that details of at least half of the 10,000 properties were previously available but no action was taken. But now the PTI government is also found realising that it can’t bring money back from foreign countries.

Till few months back, the barrister was also seen keenly digging out cases against the opposition leaders in close coordination with NAB. He used to hold press conferences quite frequently to talk about the alleged corruption of Sharif and Zardari families.

It is said that Barrister Shahzad held his last press conference in August and issued a complete charge sheet against Maryam Nawaz and her cousin Yousaf Abbas in alleged Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) money laundering case. The very next day, the NAB had arrested both Maryam and Yousaf.

Barrister Shahzad had alleged that the CSM had been the hub of money laundering for the Sharif family. He said that in the year 2008, the mills shares were transferred to Maryam Nawaz, who later transferred Rs7 million to Yousaf Abbas Sharif in 2010. Barrister added that an important document has been recovered from Nasir Lootha, who was shown to have shares in Chaudhry Sugar Mills.

Media record shows that Shahzad Akbar’s last several press conferences were organised squarely to discuss the alleged corruption cases of Sharif family. Sometimes the press conferences discussed the cases of Asif Ali Zardari’s alleged corruption.

In July Barrister Shahzad Akbar held at least four press conferences. In all these conferences, the ARU head had discussed Sharif family and their alleged corruption. Newspaper record of last several months hardly show the barrister discussing even once what has been the prime objective of the ARU.

As per the official claims, the ARU has so far recovered an amount of Rs530 million, which was illegally sent abroad. Only a few days back, FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi said that $6 billion was remitted out from Pakistan per annum in last 20 years out of which 85 percent was sent out legally so it could not be brought back. “The practice of sending out money abroad is still continuing as almost every wealthy Pakistani possessed assets and property abroad and a house in Dubai,” Shabbar Zaidi was quoted as saying while addressing a seminar on economic prosperity and role of enterprises here. The FBR chairman added that the wealth was remitted out substantially from Pakistan during the decade of 90s and investors were also settled in other foreign countries.