LAHORE   -   The NAB on Friday conducted a surprise raid at the Model Town residence of PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz but his private guards ‘surprised’ them back by forcing them out and making them return empty-handed.

The Lahore office of the National Accountability Bureau had summoned the Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly to appear in person on Friday at 10am but Hamza did not show up.

The anti-graft authority then conducted the raid to arrest him and produce before a joint investigation team probing a case of alleged money laundering and assets disproportionate to known source of income, a NAB official told The Nation.

The raid came just a day after the Bureau arrested two alleged “front men” of Hamza on the charges of laundering billions of rupees. On Friday, an accountability court granted physical remand of Qasim Qayyum and Fazal Dad Abbasi to  NAB until April 19.

The PML-N declared the raid at 96-H, Model Town illegal as it was carried out without intimation and issuance of arrest warrants.

But the NAB official told this paper that the team raided the house, owned by Hamza’s father and former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, after issuance of arrest warrants.

A press statement issued by NAB soon after the raid said a team of Lahore NAB having arrest warrants for Hamza raided the residence to take him into custody but the private bodyguards offered resistance.

The NAB spokesman noted that the Supreme Court had made it very clear that NAB does not need to inform suspects prior to their arrest.

He said that Hamza's guards had beaten members of the NAB team, tore their clothes, and threatened their lives.

"It was a clear violation of the law and those who interfered in NAB's legal action and operations of the state will be proceeded against as per the law," the statement said.

NAB officials reached the Model Town police station late Thursday and filed a complaint against Hamza’s guards.

According to insiders action has been sought against at least 28 people, of whom 20 were named while eight others were unknown. The process of registering a criminal case against the accused was underway at the time of filing of this report.



PML-N reaction

The PML-N, in a press statement, rejected the NAB’s statement calling it pack of lies and an effort to conceal its unlawful acts.

It said the party was consulting legal experts to formulate a proper response to NAB’s ‘supra-law act’ and the matter would be pursued on legal grounds to hold the responsible accountable.

Earlier, reacting to the NAB raid, PML-N spokesman Malik Ahmed Khan claimed that the officials of anti-corruption watchdog raided the house without search warrants which was against the law. He alleged that the incumbent government had turned entire country into a police state.

PML-N leader Maryam Aurangzeb also condemned the NAB raid stating that NAB conducted the raid without prior information.

Hamza himself claimed that NAB violated the Lahore High Court decision by raiding his Model Town residence.

“The court has given orders to notify [the accused] 10 days before making any arrest, and the NAB incursion is contempt of that decision,” he told reporters in Lahore.

“The way NAB raided our house made us feel that we are terrorists,” he said. “I always appear whenever summoned by the court or NAB,” he claimed.

 PPP reaction

Pakistan Peoples’ Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari condemned the NAB raid and termed it “yet another authoritarian and undemocratic move by the government.”

In a Twitter post, he said his party “doesn’t oppose accountability but opposes political vendettas in the name of accountability.”

“If leader of the opposition @CMShehbaz’s home has been raided by NAB without a warrant then it is highly condemnable. PPP doesn’t oppose accountability but we oppose political vendettas in the name of accountability. Yet another authoritarian & undemocratic move by the government,” Bilawal tweeted.

Punjab chief minister’s spokesman Shahbaz Gill said that NAB is an independent department and doing its work under the constitution and law. Talking to a private news channel, he said bails of Sharif family are always approved but leaders of other parties are not getting it.



Conflicting versions

The PML-N in it press statement said the NAB team barged into a private premise, misbehaved with the guards at the gate while jumping over the walls of the house. The officials violated the sanctity of privacy of individuals enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan. The statement strongly condemned “this unlawful, immoral and indecent act”.

“It was extremely sad that NAB resorted to such tactics especially when every leader of PML-N including National Assembly Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz had not only been following the orders of the bureau but they had also been cooperating fully with NAB regarding every investigation,” the statement said.

It said that when NAB team forced its way into the house, it was shown legal proof of the fact that NAB’s appeal in the court is still pending judgment. Therefore, the ruling of the High Court stands as the status quo, which means that NAB has no legal right to break into the house, or conduct any legal action against the incumbents.

However, “PML-N treated NAB officials in the most courteous manner and gave them tea and refreshments. Although the NAB team had committed an offense and had severely misbehaved with the security personnel at the house who were furious, the NAB officials were safely allowed to leave the premise.”

The statement said that even if NAB wanted to pursue arrests, it should have adopted the legal and constitutional procedure to go about doing it.

But NAB sources told an entirely different story. According to them, the raiding team was pushed back at the main entrance when they told the security guards that they wanted to meet Hamza Shehbaz.

“The NAB officers identified themselves to the guards and asked them to send Hamza outside but the bodyguards got infuriated and threatened the team [members],” one official said.

Asked what will be their next plan after the botched raid, another NAB officer replied, “Hamza Shehbaz will be arrested at any cost.”

He said that the NAB team was called back to control and cool down the situation. Asked if the raiding team had arrest warrants, the official said NAB chairman had already issued warrants in this regard.

Another official said that it was unfortunate that bodyguards of the suspects threatened the raiding team and tried to interfere into official matters. He alleged that the officials were even roughed up.