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LHC grants pre-arrest bail to Shahbaz till 17th

Top Story

June 4, 2020

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Wednesday granted interim pre-arrest bail to Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif and barred the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from arresting him till June 17 in an investigation of assets beyond means.On Tuesday, a team of the NAB had raided the Model Town residence of Shahbaz to arrest him after he did not appear before a combined investigation team of the bureau. The raiding team, however, was unable to trace him and returned empty-handed. A heavy contingent of police was deployed in and outside the high court while barricades were also erected in the surrounding area apparently to stop political workers from reaching the court. A large number of PML-N workers already gathered at the LHC while Shahbaz arrived around 12pm to attend proceedings of his bail petition before a two-judge bench.

Senior leaders of the party including Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Ahsan Iqbal, Rana Sanaullah, Khwaja Saad Rafiq, Tariq Fazal Ch, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Azma Bokhari also reached the court before the hearing. Officials searching for the PML-N president stopped the car of the party’s provincial president Rana Sanaullah after they suspected the leader of the opposition was also present in the vehicle.

The courtroom was packed to its capacity when the bench commenced hearing of the bail petition. The security personnel failed to enforce Covid-19 pandemic SOPs including social distancing inside the courtroom. “Where is the petitioner?” Justice Muhammad Tariq Abbasi, who headed the bench, asked the lawyers standing behind the rostrum. Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar told the bench that Shahbaz was present in the court. He said his client was a cancer patient. Justice Abbasi asked the counsel whether the petitioner had apprehension of his arrest by the NAB. With an answer in affirmative, the counsel said the NAB had also arrested the petitioner on Oct 5, 2018 in the Punjab Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme when he appeared before the investigators in the Saaf Pani Company case. He said the bureau kept the petitioner in its custody for 63 days and also caused his arrest in another case of Ramzan Sugar Mills while failed to establish any charge against him. He said the NAB once again wanted to arrest the petitioner.

The judge asked NAB Special Prosecutor Faisal Bokhari whether the prosecution will say something or act like a silent spectator. He said the NAB will oppose the bail petition. Shahbaz's lawyers claimed that even though he was summoned by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on June 2, warrants were dated May 28, implying that the anti-corruption watchdog had already decided to arrest him. Justice Abbasi questioned the delayed attempt of the NAB to arrest the petitioner. “It seems that the NAB does not want to arrest the petitioner,” the judge expressed his wonder.

The bench allowed the pre-arrest interim bail to Shahbaz, restraining the NAB from arresting him till June 17. It also issued a notice to the NAB for submission of a detailed reply. Shahbaz was ordered to furnish bail bonds of Rs 500,000 with the deputy registrar (judicial) of the high court.

Meanwhile the National Accountability Bureau, Lahore, on Wednesday again summoned Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif on June 9 in an investigation related to alleged money-laundering and assets beyond means.

Earlier, the NAB had issued arrest warrants for Shahbaz Sharif and his residence was raided. However, on Wednesday, a division bench of the Lahore High Court granted pre-arrest bail to Shahbaz till June 17. After which, the bureau summoned Shahbaz on June 9.