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Hamza’s pre-arrest bail extended till 27th

National

May 23, 2019

LAHORE: A two-member bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday extended leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz’s interim pre-arrest bail in three corruption cases being probed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

As hearing resumed on Hamza’s bail petitions, the NAB special prosecutor told the court that the bureau had provided Hamza with the details pertaining to grounds for arrest and documents showing approval of the inquiries by the competent authority. He said the court had the privilege whether to extend the relief of bail to the petitioner.

Hamza also appeared before the bench comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem. The NAB initiated inquiries against the opposition leader, including Ramzan Sugar Mills, Punjab Saaf Pani Company, assets beyond means and money laundering. In response to NAB’s assertions, Hamza’s counsel in money laundering inquiry, advocate Salman Aslam Butt, argued that the prosecution had not provided them an authority letter issued by the NAB chairman for the initiation of the inquiry.

Citing different judgments of the Supreme Court, the counsel said no inquiry could be launched unless approved by the bureau’s chairman. He said the petitioner had a legitimate right to know the reasons cited by the chairman before allowing the inquiry.

The prosecutor stated that the reasons given for the arrest of the petitioner had been the grounds for the initiation of the inquiries. He pointed out that Hamza received a hefty amount of Rs2.11 billion from his brother Salman Shahbaz and other members of the family. He said Hamza and Salman established nine industrialist units in 2008. He said the petitioner failed to justify foreign remittances while his brother Salman escaped abroad after the NAB started interrogating him.

The prosecutor stated that front men of Shahbaz Sharif’s family namely Mushtaq Cheeni, Fazal Dad Abbasi and Syed Tahir Naqvi arrested by the NAB had confessed to laundering money for the petitioner and his family.

He claimed that persons of low income like shopkeepers and road vendors had been shown by the petitioner as sender of foreign remittances. Advocate Butt argued that a report of Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) was the foundation of the case but the NAB had not been providing it to the petitioner. “I have legal grounds to challenge the claim of the NAB to keep the FMU report secret,” the counsel added.

The prosecutor said he possessed the classified report and could present it for the disposal of the court. The petitioner’s counsel argued that the NAB had been invoking multiple laws in the case including Anti Money Laundering Act (Amended) 2017 whereas it was bound to work under its ordinance only. He said the bureau had no jurisdiction to hold investigation in a money laundering case if there was a report of FMU.

He said the NAB could not even arrest the petitioner without the permission by a judicial magistrate concerned. The counsel further argued that the anti-money laundering law envisaged provision of classified documents to an accused within seven days. However, he said in the instant case the bureau had been in a deep slumber for the last twelve years.

The bench reserved its decision on the point whether the NAB was bound to supply classified document to an accused and extended bail of Hamza until May 27. Strict security arrangements were made in and outside the high court before the arrival of Hamza Shahbaz and political workers were kept at bay from the courtroom.

Talking to the media after appearing before the Lahore High Court, Hamza warned that the day of accountability for PTI rulers was very close, and the opposition would not allow Prime Minister Imran Khan to hide behind the NAB cover.

He said Imran would have to be accountable for the sweet dreams he showed to the nation while standing on top of container. He said whenever this historic downfall of the country’s economy would be written, the connivance of Imran Khan Niazi and the NAB would be on top of the contents. He said if the NAB chairman is to address press conferences, he should better make a political party and get allied with Imran Khan Niazi for taking political benefits.

Hamza said he was not worried for himself but for the millions of poor Pakistanis who could not afford food, medicines and basic needs which the PTI government has made so dear that poor masses could not afford them and were dying of hunger and diseases. He warned that the PTI government is telling lies after lies to the poor nation. He alleged Imran was subjecting his opponents to victimization in the name of accountability and the entire nation is witness to that injustice. Imran has broken all records of price hike and economic downfall in the country’s history. He said the entire economy has been handed over to the IMF while rupee has been devalued to historic depths and the nation is suffering under hunger, diseases and poverty due to unmanageable price hike

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