LAHORE - The PML-N has flayed arrest of Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz by National Accountability Bureau. Party leadership accused the PTI government of using NAB for intimidating the opposition.

Hearing the news of PML-N Vice President’s arrest after rejection of bail petition by Lahore High Court, party workers came out and blocked roads on a number places by burning tyres. Highly charged workers chanted slogans against government and NAB and in favour of PML-N leadership.

PML-N demonstrations at Icchra and Chungi Amar Sadhu on Ferozepur Road, Mughalpura, Schazo Laboratory on GT Road, Multan Chungi, Scheme Morr and Chowk Yateem Khana on Multan Road, Garhi Shahu, Thokar Niaz Beg and Badami Bagh caused huge inconvenience to commuters who had to wait for hours to reach their respective destinations.

MPA Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman led the protest outside Schazo Laboratory near UET, Sohail Shaukat Butt at Manawan, Malik Waheed at Mughalpura, Ghazali Saleem Butt and Mushtaq Mughal at Badami Bagh, Ch Baqar Hussain at Chowk Yateem Khana, Syed Tauseef Shah and Mian Tariq at Icchra, Khalid Qadri at Chunhgi Amar Sadhu, Dastgir Shah and Sabghat Ullah Sultan at Bhati Chowk, Co ® Mubashir Javed and Rana Ahsan at Garhi Shahu.

150 protesters booked

Addressing workers at different places, PML-N leaders flayed the move saying it was politically-motivated and aimed at silencing party that was all set to raise issues of price hike and wrong economic policies of the present regime.

According to INP, Farzana Butt was caught on camera pushing the policemen and slapping them during the demo.

Policemen, however, did not respond to the misbehaviour of the MPA. The arrest took place after a two-member LHC bench, headed by Justice Mazahir Ali Naqvi, dismissed the bail applications filed by Hamza after his (Hamza’s) lawyer opted to withdraw the bail pleas in the two corruption cases. Till filing of this story, 150 protesters were booked while dozens were arrested.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday arrested PML-N Vice-President and Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz from the Lahore High Court (LHC) premises after an LHC division bench rejected his bail petitions in Ramzan Sugar Mills and assets-beyond-means cases.

The two-member bench consisting of Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Muhammad Waheed Khan dismissed the bail petitions after the counsel representing the PML-N leader withdrew pre-arrest bail pleas.

At the outset of the hearing, the PML-N central leader, accompanied by his counsel and a large number of party leaders and workers, appeared before the division bench while the NAB team was also present in the courtroom.

Advocate Salman Aslam Butt on behalf of Hamza Shehbaz advanced arguments in connection with allegations leveled in the assets-beyond-means case and requested the court to hear the contempt petition filed against NAB authorities for ignoring the court directions pertaining to Hamza’s arrest.

He further submitted that according to law, arrest warrants could not be issued till completion of an inquiry. He added that inquiry against his client was underway in the money laundering case while Hamza was also extending cooperation to the NAB in this respect. He contended that warrants for arrest of his client were issued without any reason.

The counsel said that NAB had only provided documents regarding grounds of arrest, inquiry and investigation, whereas, documents of Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) had not been handed over to his client in spite of request made for the same. He was of the view that documents required by Hamza were prerequisite for moving ahead in the case.

After hearing the arguments, the division bench declined the request and remarked that FMU documents could not be handed over to the petitioner at current stage.

On the other side, NAB official argued that arrest warrants were issued according to law while the FMU had detected Hamza’s involvement in money laundering.

He said assets of Shehbaz family had increased manifold during the past years and these assets were beyond known sources of income. The NAB prosecutor further submitted that not only Hamza but other family members had also ‘laundered money’.

Contrary to petitioner’s claim, the NAB official submitted that Hamza was not cooperating with the accountability bureau regarding investigations, and said the PML-N leader had failed to provide details about sources of his income.

The prosecutor maintained that Hamza could not provide details of his sources of money transferred from abroad thus had failed to justify assets of Rs380 million. He also disclosed that two companies in Pakistan were involved in laundering money.

After hearing NAB arguments, the bench adjourned the hearing. After an interval of a half an hour when the hearing resumed, Hamza’s counsel again submitted that arguments could not be advanced without FMU documents, and requested for the provision of the same.

However, the bench again denied the request and remarked that it had dismissed the application for that purpose. Afterwards, the bench dismissed the bail petitions when Hamza’s counsel withdrew the same.

A large number of party workers were also present in and outside the court premises. They expressed solidarity with their leader who reached there amidst strict security arrangements.

As per NAB sources, Hamza Shehbaz had total assets of Rs18 million in the year 2003 which increased to Rs411.630 million in the year 2017.

The accused claimed foreign remittances of Rs181 million as sources of funds for the said increase in assets. During the course of inquiry/investigation, claimed foreign remittances were found to be fictitious. Accused along with his other family members established 12 industrial units and funds received through fictitious foreign remittances were injected as equity or director’s loan to the tune of Rs244 million.

They further said, “Out of income claimed as capital gain, gifts and salary from companies established with the proceeds of fictitious foreign remittances, accused acquired different assets in the form of agricultural, residential and commercial lands of worth 167 million.”

 

What next?

 

As per a renowned legal expert advocate Syed Kazim Bukhari, the NAB shall inform the accused of the grounds and substance on the basis of which he has been arrested and produce him before an accountability court within a period of 24 hours of the arrest.

As per law, prior to authorisation of investigation, an accused voluntarily comes forward and offers to return the assets or gains acquired or made by him. NAB chairman may accept such offer.

Regarding Hamza’s case in, the NAB chairman may, in his discretion, accept the offer if Hamza offers to return to the NAB the assets or gains acquired or made by him in the course.

Meanwhile, the accused through his counsel can oppose extension of the remand if the investigation completes. He will also be able to file a post-arrest bail petition in the High Court if the trial court sends him on judicial remand after expiration of physical remand, the legal expert said.

After the final judgment, the accused or the prosecutor general accountability aggrieved by the final judgment and order of the trial court may, within 10 days of the final judgment and order prefer an appeal to the high court, said the advocate Supreme Court.