Nawaz Sharif aide denies involvement in Islamabad airport graft

Special Nawaz Sharif aide denies involvement in Islamabad airport graft
Shujaat Azeem is seen in this photo taken during his visit to the PIA's training center in Swat on Feb. 24, 2015. (Photo courtesy: social media)
Updated 31 January 2020
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Nawaz Sharif aide denies involvement in Islamabad airport graft

Nawaz Sharif aide denies involvement in Islamabad airport graft
  • Nawaz Sharif used Islamabad International Airport to illegally funnel money into Chaudhry Sugar Mills, says PM’s accountability aide
  • Runway contract was awarded to Technical Associate, a construction company owned by Sharif’s relative

LAHORE: Former government adviser Shujaat Azeem says he is going to file a defamation suit against Shahzad Akbar, the prime minister’s special assistant on accountability, for accusing him of taking kickbacks from a company involved in the construction of Islamabad’s new international airport.

“The allegations against me are completely baseless and untrue. This is an attempt to spread misinformation among the public,” Azeem told Arab News.

On Thursday, Akbar, who heads Prime Minister Imran Khan’s accountability and anti-graft drive in the country, told reporters that former premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, used Islamabad International Airport to illegally funnel money into their company, Chaudhry Sugar Mills. Akbar insisted that a major contract for the new airport was given to Technical Associate, a construction company owned by Sharif’s relative.

The company, Akbar said, had injected Rs507 million into the sugar mills, and separately paid Rs50 million to Shujaat Azeem, who during Sharif’s tenure was the prime minister’s special assistant on aviation. He showed a copy of the 2011 cheque to reporters. “If this is not a kickback then it is a conflict of interest,” he said.

Azeem dismissed the allegation. “He showed you the money order, but he did not tell you that Chaudhry Munir, the owner of the company, was returning a personal loan he took from me a few years back,” he told Arab News, explaining that his ties with Technical Associate stretch to 2004, long before he became a member of Sharif’s cabinet.

In reference to Technical Associate’s contract, he said it was awarded for the construction of a runway and taxiway in 2009. “By the time I was appointed a special assistant in 2013, the company had already finished its job.”

While he said he plans to sue Akbar for defamation, Azeem added he would first write to the accountability assistant and “tell him to get his facts right.” “During their internal investigation, they never once contacted me for my version,” he said.

Construction of the Islamabad airport began in 2005. It became operational in 2018.