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February 12, 2019

LHC rejects NAB plea in Ashiana case

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February 12, 2019

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday rejected the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) petition seeking a change of bench hearing Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif’s bail petition in Ashiana Housing Scheme scam.

LHC Chief Justice Sardar Muhammad Shamim Khan heard the NAB’s plea and reserved judgment on the admissibility of hearing of the bail plea. Later, the CJ announced the decision and ruled that the same bench will hear the petition. In its plea, the accountability watchdog had stated, “A two-judge bench headed by Justice Malik Shahzad and comprising Justice Mirza Viqas Rauf is hearing Shahbaz’s bail petition in Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme case and it should be transferred to a bench headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi.”

He pointed out that another division bench headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi had already decided bail petitions of co-suspects in the housing scheme scam. Therefore, he said the bail petition of former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif should also be heard by the same bench. The counsel also referred to a Supreme Court judgment in support of his arguments. However, the chief justice dismissed the application for being not maintainable. “There are already many complaints against the NAB, now it would form the court’s bench according to its will!” the judge remarked. On October 6, NAB had arrested the PML-N president in the Ashiana Housing Scheme case and he is currently in jail on remand.

Meanwhile, the bench headed by Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan adjourned further hearing of the bail petitions moved by Shahbaz Sharif as arguments of NAB special prosecutor Akram Qureshi and defence counsel were underway. Mr Qureshi argued that Shahbaz Sharif being chief minister unlawfully exercised powers of the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) Board of Directors (BoD) and entrusted the project to Lahore Development Authority (LDA) after cancelling the first lawful contract of the housing scheme awarded to Latif & Sons Company. He said the PLDC was an autonomous body and the chief minister had

no power to intervene in its affairs. To a bench’s query, the prosecutor admitted that though there was no direct evidence against Shahbaz Sharif of misuse of authority but as per prosecution witnesses former secretary implementation to chief minister Fawad Hassan Fawad carried out all illegal acts onthe instruction of Shahbaz Sharif. Opposing the bail petition on merits, Mr Qureshi said there was no delay in the trial so no ground had been made out at this stage. Challenging the medical grounds taken by the former CM for the grant of bail, the special prosecutor argued that as per the Supreme Court’s judgments the bail could be allowed on medical reasons if the sickness was detrimental to life. In the present case, he said, the petitioner had no such hardship or sickness.

On the other side, defence counsel Amjad Pervez argued that Shahbaz Sharif being then chief minister had not ordered the cancellation of the housing scheme’s first contract. He said it was BoD of the PLDC that approved the cancellation.

About the transfer of the project from PLDC to LDA, he said the Punjab government rules of business allowed the chief minister to transfer any subject of a department to another department. He said Shahbaz Sharif took no unlawful decision nor he misused his authority.

The bench adjourned hearing until Tuesday (today) asking the defence side to come up with more arguments. The bench also sought arguments from the counsel of Fawad Hassan Fawad on his bail petition in the same case.

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