Wednesday May 22, 2024

Shahbaz, Kh Asif bail pleas: LHC issues notices to NAB

By our correspondents
March 30, 2021

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday issued a notice to the National Accountability Bureau authorities for April 13 on a bail petition, filed by Opposition Leader in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif in assets beyond means and money laundering case.

A division bench comprising Justice Sardar Muhammad Sarfraz Dogar and Justice Asjad Javaid Ghural heard the post-arrest bail petition. The petitioner's counsel argued before the bench that the Bureau fabricated money laundering case against his client with mala fide intentions, as his client had already declared all his assets. He submitted that the Bureau had filed the challan (charge-sheet) against the petitioner and others whereas the trial was pending in an accountability court.

The counsel submitted that Shahbaz Sharif was behind the bars for past many months whereas conclusion of trial would take long time. He submitted that the Bureau had all the record and it did not have to recover anything from his client.

He also said that many co-accused had already been granted relief of post-arrest bail in the case. He submitted that his client could not perform his constitutional responsibilities as the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly.

He also submitted that his client was 70-year old and a cancer survivor. He submitted that under these circumstances, there was no reason to keep Shahbaz Sharif behind the bars and pleaded with the bench for grant of post-arrest bail, besides assuring that he would attend trial proceedings regularly.

The bench issued notice to the NAB authorities for April 13 and sought reply. Shahbaz Sharif was arrested on Sept 28 after the LHC denied him further relief of pre-arrest bail in the case. He remained in the NAB custody for 23 days till the trial court sent him on judicial remand on Oct 20, 2020. NAB had nominated 16 persons as the accused in the case.

However, only 10 had been indicted yet. Besides Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza Shahbaz, Javeria Ali, Fazl Dad Abbasi, Rashid Karamat, Muhammad Usman, Masroor Anwar, Nisar Ahmad, Shoaib Qamar, and Qasim Qayyum had been indicted in the case, while Suleman Shahbaz, Nusrat Shahbaz, Rabia Imran, Syed Muhammad Tahir Naqvi, Haroon Yousafaai and another could not be indicted due to their absence from case proceedings.

In a reference, comprising 55 volumes, the Bureau had alleged that Shahbaz Sharif family committed massive money laundering of Rs7 billion. Yasir Mushtaq, Mushtaq Ahmad, Shahid Rafique and Aftab were declared approvers in the reference.

The Lahore High Court (LHC) issued notices to National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on the petition of former defence minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, seeking post-arrest bail in an inquiry of assets beyond means and money laundering.

The NAB had arrested him from Islamabad on December 29, 2020 and later shifted to Lahore where he remained on physical remand till January 22, 2021. The former minister is a sitting MNA from NA-73, Sialkot.

The petitioner, through Barrister Haider Rasul Mirza, stated that during the 22-day physical remand with the NAB he had not been confronted with any direct or circumstantial evidence, which could prove owning assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.

He said mere ownership of a property did not constitute an offence under Section 9 (a) (v) of National Accountability Ordinance. The petitioner said he had already provided the NAB an explanation of various sources of income justifying the acquisition of the assets owned and possessed by him. The counsel argued that the onus to prove the allegations of owning any illegal asset was on the prosecution, which failed to establish its case.

The petitioner contended that no recovery had been made from him that could connect him with the allegations of corruption as alleged in the grounds of his arrest. He asked the court to release the petitioner on bail.

After hearing initial arguments, the division bench comprising Justice Sardar Muhammad Sarfraz Dogar and Justice Asjad Javed Ghural issued notices to NAB and sought its reply by April 14.

The NAB alleged that Asif failed to explain the sources of his income and assets. It said the suspect was first elected senator in 1991 when his assets were around Rs5 million. It said the assets of the suspect swelled to Rs221 million by 2018, which were beyond known sources of his income.

Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court Monday extended interim pre-arrest bail of Capt (R) Muhammad Safdar, son-in-law of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, in an inquiry of assets beyond means initiated against him by the NAB.

The division bench headed by Justice Sardar Muhammad Sarfraz Dogar allowed time to the NAB to file its reply and adjourned the hearing until April 15. Safdar through a counsel contended that an inquiry into the assets of the petitioner was already pending with Peshawar office of the NAB when its Lahore office initiated another inquiry on similar charges.

He said the act of the NAB of holding two separate inquiries on similar charges against the petitioner was illegal and based on mala fide intention. He alleged that the petitioner had been subjected to political victimisation at the behest of the government.