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NAB fails again

Top Story

April 7, 2019

LAHORE: A National Accountability Bureau team led by Deputy Director Chaudhry Asghar on Saturday reached the residence of Hamza Shahbaz, 96-H, Model Town, around 10am for the second consecutive day to arrest him.

The NAB team having the assistance of the police and the anti-riot force surrounded Hamza's residence. The police including female police officers were stationed outside the main gate. It faced resistance from Hamza’s guards and PML-N workers like Friday. The PML-N workers formed a chain and staged a sit-in in front of the house. They clashed with the police whenever they tried to reach the entrance. Later, a press release was issued by the NAB that Rangers have been called by the bureau for assistance in the arrest of Hamza. A few vehicles of Rangers reached but they didn’t interfere in the operation as final instructions were not given by the bureau. Chaudhry Asghar showed arrest warrants to Hamza’s lawyer Atta Tarar, but he wasn’t allowed to enter the house. Meanwhile, an application was moved before an accountability court by the NAB, seeking permission to enter the house to arrest Hamza. The court refused the NAB plea.

NAB's Deputy Director, Chaudhry Asghar, talking to the media, said the bureau has completed all the legalities for the arrest of Hamza. He said Hamza should not hide inside the house. He requested the PML-N leader to come out and cooperate with the NAB team, saying his team would not leave without arresting him. After the LHC orders of not arresting Hamza, the NAB team returned. The PML-N workers, after hearing the LHC decision, raised slogans in favour of their party leaders.

Earlier, the Lahore High Court Chief Justice, Sardar Muhammad Shamim Khan, allowed protective bail to Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly, Hamza Shahbaz and barred the NAB from arresting him till Monday. The chief justice issued the order, in his chamber, on a civil miscellaneous application filed by the counsel of Hamza to stop his possible arrest when a NAB team had raided his Model Town residence for the second time in 24 hours to take him into custody. A legal team comprising Lahore High Court Bar Association President, Hafeezur Rehman Chaudhry, Amjad Pervez and Chaudhry Imtiaz Elahi appeared on behalf of Hamza before the chief justice in his chamber. The counsel contended that a petition of Hamza for ad interim pre-arrest bail was already fixed for hearing before a two-judge bench for April 8. They pointed out that the court had on Nov 20, 2018, disposed of a previous bail petition of the leader of opposition with a direction to the NAB to intimate the petitioner if it found any ground for his arrest so he could have sufficient time of at least 10 days for approaching the court of competent jurisdiction. They argued that the NAB in violation of the order was apt to arrest the petitioner without giving him time and his house was cordoned by the bureau’s officials. They asked the chief justice to allow protective bail to the petitioner till April 8 enabling him to approach the division bench already seized with the matter.

Replying to the chief justice’s query about jurisdiction of the single bench to take up the matter, the counsel referred to a case law reported as “Advocate Imran Raza Khan versus SSP Lahore and others” wherein a similar matter was entertained by the chief justice at his residence alone. “Keeping in view the facts and circumstances of this case, the instant civil miscellaneous is accepted and the petitioner is admitted to ad interim protective bail till April 8, 2019,” ordered Chief Justice Khan. The chief justice made it clear that the bail granting order would cease to have any effect after Monday and this will not prejudice the case of any party. “The NAB authorities shall not arrest the petitioner till said date,” the order concluded.

Addressing party workers outside his residence after the LHC orders, Hamza asked Prime Minister Imran Khan not to scare him of jail as he had faced the Musharraf regime. “Niazi Sahib, I have faced 10-year accountability by Pervez Musharraf government. I served time in Adiala jail when I was 18-year-old. Do not try and scare me,” he said. The PML-N leader said: "The nation is awake. The workers are standing firm here. Our workers are our asset and I respect them from the core of my heart." Hamza said the Constitution and the law won today in the country. He noted his party's leadership faced cases against them and appeared before the investigating agencies despite all reservations. "Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan to face cases against him, leaving behind his ailing wife. But not a single penny worth of corruption could be proven against the former prime minister," the opposition leader said. "We appeared before the NAB despite all reservations and the anti-graft body stated before the court that Hamza Shahbaz was the most cooperative of all." He said he had the court order with him, adding, "Court orders should be respected for the sake of rule of law in the country. You cannot arrest me".

Hamza said tyrants are those who enter a person's residence by scaling the walls and detain the occupants. He said he was worried with the economic conditions of the country. "The economic conditions of the country are haunting me today. Nazi Sahib, you have deprived the masses of food, while the test being conducted in public hospitals are costlier than the tests in private hospitals," the opposition leader said. He invited the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government to hold talks with them on the Charter of Democracy, saying the opposition would play its role for the sake of people. "There are ages left for political rivalry. The price of dollar today is putting a question mark on the Pakistan's economy," Hamza said. "The economy of the country is declining and there is shortage of capital even for debt servicing. He invited the government to come and try jointly carving out a road map to help strengthen the economy. The opposition leader advised the prime minister to stop telling lies, saying the masses did not have enough money for treatment of their children. He said they would resolve public issues the way they eliminated load-shedding from the country. "The people have sent us to assemblies. We took oath despite worst rigging, for the sake of continuity of democracy," Hamza said.

Meanwhile, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said if the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is an independent institution, the Punjab chief minister's spokesperson Shahbaz Gill and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry would not have been its spokespersons. Speaking to the Geo News after the NAB raid, she said: "The NAB is continuing with its state terrorism. According to the Lahore High Court’s decision, the NAB cannot arrest Hamza." Questioning where "Hamza's arrest orders have suddenly appeared from", Marriyum said: "Yesterday while addressing a rally, Imran Khan said he will put everyone in jail. This is just a ploy to distract people from the government incompetence. This is no law, this is state terrorism to arrest people. Imran Khan is using the NAB for state terrorism. First, they used to stand atop containers and do terrorism and now they are standing on opposition's heads and scaring them," she asserted.

The PML-N spokesperson said: "Hamza appeared before the NAB whenever he was summoned. A day earlier, we found out through news channels that Hamza was summoned on April 9 but did not receive any notice. We will fight this political war,” she upheld. She rejected claims that Hamza's guards resorted to violence during Friday's raid. PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah said Hamza has moved the LHC against the NAB's Friday raid. "This is not a NAB or police matter, but Imran Khan's revenge," he said.

Meanwhile, in a tweet, Prime Minister Imran Khan said: “Our Prophet (PBUH) said many nations before you were destroyed where there was one law for the powerful and another for the weak.” The Punjab government spokesman Dr Shahbaz Gill said Hamza should not breach the sanctity of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the NAB by trying to escape arrest. Talking to a private news channel, he said Hamza’s reluctance to get arrested clearly demonstrated his lack of political wisdom and democratic attitude. He wondered how some TV channels could undermine the position of the Supreme Court as Article 189, 190 and 191 mention that an SC verdict could nullify high court orders, adding the Supreme Court has stated in its verdict of March 27 that the NAB is independent to arrest any alleged culprit of corruption.

Gill said Hamza should have thought of consequences when he was busy multiplying his assets and properties. Now it is the time to present himself in court for the accountability, he said. The "PML-N leaders are using indecent language against Prime Minister Imran Khan and calling Imran Khan "Niazi" aiming to raising racism against a particular tribe," he stated. Hamza should face the situation with bravery, he said, adding that hiding behind walls would not help him escape corruption cases.

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