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Tuesday November 30, 2021

Shehbaz stopped from leaving country, ‘Shehbaz received no bribe’

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Saturday morning barred Shehbaz Sharif from boarding a flight for London at the Lahore Airport despite one-time permission granted a day before by the Lahore High Court to go abroad for treatment.

May 09, 2021

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court (LHC) order Saturday said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had admitted before the court that the PMLN President and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif was not alleged to have received any kickbacks or any ill-gotten money in return to a favour extended to someone to build up assets in the name of his family.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Saturday morning barred Shehbaz Sharif from boarding a flight for London at the Lahore Airport despite one-time permission granted a day before by the Lahore High Court to go abroad for treatment.

The full bench gave the observation in a detailed judgment on the bail matter of Shahbaz in the assets beyond means and money-laundering reference filed by the NAB.

The LHC’s chief justice had constituted a three-member full bench comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, Justice Aalia Neelum and Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi to decide the bail of Shahbaz after a division bench reached a split decision.

Justice Sardar Muhammad Sarfraz Dogar, the head of the division bench, had allowed the bail, while the other member Justice Asjad Javed Ghural dismissed the same.

Through a short order, the full bench had granted bail to Shahbaz on April 22 in the money-laundering reference and he was out of the jail after furnishing the bail bonds.

On Saturday, the LHC released the full bench judgment on the bail matter.

The full bench observed:“Interestingly, the NAB has categorically admitted before us that the petitioner is not alleged to have received any kickbacks or any such ill-gotten money in return to a favour extended to someone to build up the assets in the name of his family.”

The bench while discussing the allegations of the NAB of amassing benami properties through fictitious telegraphic transfers (FTTS) noted that no investigation was conducted to dig out the source of income of the petitioner.

It observed that the NAB also alleged certain amounts were given in the party funds by the party supporters which were utilized for the personal benefit of Shahbaz.

“Had it been the case, it would have become a dispute, at the most, between two individuals or a matter to be considered by the Election Commission of Pakistan for collecting party funds from certain undesirable persons by suggesting a money trail,” says the verdict.

The judges observe: “We are afraid that half-hearted attempt by the NAB will not absolve them of their responsibility to prove the case against the petitioner as the presumption of innocence always lies in favour of the accused person and the onus shifts only after initial discharge of burden by the prosecution.”

The bench referred to a case of Abdul Aleem Khan decided in 2019 wherein the bail was granted by the LHC on the ground that the properties were declared in the income tax returns.

The judgment further noted that even the judge (Justice Ghural) developing a difference of opinion in the present case had already granted bail in another case titled “Mazhar Hussain Asif versus National Accountability Bureau” while referring to the source of money declared in the tax returns.

Rejecting another allegation of the NAB that family members of Shahbaz were his dependents, the bench referred to the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Panama Papers case and observes that living together was not a proof of dependability.

“It further rules that in the absence of any property purchased or owned in the personal name of the petitioner and in the absence of direct proof that his family members were his dependents or vice versa and in the absence of direct proof that the money came through FTTs in his account as some crime proceed or money laundering, we cannot accept the prosecution case as a gospel truth,” observe the judges.

The bench subscribed an argument of the prosecution about the high moral grounds for public office-holders, however, it observes, “At times, we are also guided and supported by the principles of morality but when it comes to the question of liberty of an individual, we are bound to take into account the basic principles under which the bail can be granted or refused.”

The judges remark that they cannot, however, keep our eyes closed of the principles for the grant of post-arrest bail which is whether the case of the petitioner calls for further inquiry into his guilt.

Meanwhile, Additional Registrar Judicial of the Lahore High Court (LHC) Saturday returned an application moved by Shehbaz Sharif requesting to send a written order through a special messenger to the Islamabad immigration authorities.

A day before, the Lahore High Court had granted one-time permission to Shehbaz Sharif to go abroad for treatment.

It was learnt that the legal team of Shehbaz Sharif had moved an application to the LHC requesting for a written order to be sent to Islamabad through a special messenger

However, Additional Registrar Judicial Imran Safdar returned the application of Shehbaz Sharif's lawyers stating that in the written order of the court it was not written to send the orders to Islamabad through a special messenger.

Shehbaz reached the airport to board a flight of Qatar Airlines for Doha where he was expected to stay for two to three days. From Doha, he was scheduled to leave for London.

A number of PMLN leaders and his lawyers were accompanying him.

The FIA Immigration Wing informed Shehbaz that his name was still on the blacklist due to which he couldn’t fly abroad.

Shehbaz, who is a cancer patient, was allowed a one time travel by the Lahore High Court on Friday last to go abroad for treatment till July 5.

Shehbaz Sharif’s counsel showed the FIA lady officers the court order and tried to convince them to allow him to board the plane.

The FIA officers told them that their system was not showing Shehbaz Sharif in the list of people who were allowed to travel abroad.

Reacting to the FIA’s action, PMLN Central Vice President Maryam Nawaz termed the incident “highly condemnable” showing how the ‘fake’ government had brazenly violated the court order.

In a tweet, she said the incident showed how scared the selected was of Shehbaz Sharif.

PMLN’s spokesperson for Nawaz Sharif, Muhammad Zubair tweeted, “FIA comes under Shaikh Rashid. Where is Shaikh Rashid hiding? He should have guts to come and explain why Shehbaz Sharif was not allowed to board the plane in spite of court orders. This is a contempt of court.”

Later, talking to the media persons, PMLN leader Attaullah Tarar and spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said two FIA officials were in the LHC when it issued the order allowing Shehbaz to travel abroad.

The court order also mentioned the flight number, Aurangzeb said.

"When Shehbaz Sharif came to the airport, FIA officials stopped him and said he could not travel abroad. She said according to the FIA, their system was not updated even after the court order.

Marriyum termed the FIA’s stance “mala fide” and contempt of court. According to her, Shehbaz Sharif was main target of the ‘selected’ government.

She said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar had issued statements saying they did not accept the court order and would make "complete efforts to stop Shehbaz.

Aurangzeb alleged that the FIA and other agencies were being held hostage by Imran Khan.

“The FIA should update its system immediately; all statements made by Bashir Memon are proving true. A rent-a-spokesman sat on the TV and ridiculed the decision of the High Court,” she said.

“Imran Khan himself is a fugitive in flour and sugar case, Malam Jabba, BRT. The people have been made fool in the name of the dam. Stand up and read in front of the people the decisions that have come in favor of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Rana Sana and Shehbaz Sharif,” she said.

Two FIA officials were present in the court when the order was issued but the FIA did not update the system, Attaullah Tarar said, adding that this was being done on the instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Akbar carried them out.

He said it was a clear violation of the court order and contempt of court.

Tarar claimed that the prime minister’s special assistant Zulfiqar Bukhari’s name was removed from the ECL in 1.5 hours, while the FIA had yet to update its system despite the court order.

"Shehbaz Sharif's name was not on the ECL after which the NAB went to the Supreme Court and requested that he be put on the ECL but the court rejected the request,” Tarar said.

He further said that following this, the NAB-Niazi nexus tried to put Shehbaz's name on the blacklist.

“There is a list called the 'person-not-in-list' which is illegal and a dirty tactic through which a person can be temporarily stopped from flying abroad," he maintained.

He claimed that Shehbaz's name putting in the PNIL was a violation of the LHC order.

When the high court gave him permission to travel abroad, the Ministry of Interior and FIA have "no legal basis" to stop Shehbaz Sharif this way, said Attaullah Tarar maintained.

Meanwhile, PMLN Punjab spokesperson Azma Zahid Bokhari said the government had committed contempt of court.

Reacting to the statement of Special Assistant to the Chief Minister (SACM) Punjab Firdous Ashiq Awan, Azmi said those who flaunted respect for the courts had committed contempt of court by criticizing the verdict as the PMLN President and Leader of Opposition Shehbaz Sharif was allowed to go abroad by the Lahore High Court.

Azma Bukhari further said that the lawyers of the PML-N leader succeeded in satisfying the honourable court after which Shehbaz Sharif was allowed to travel abroad.

Pleading anonymity, a senior FIA official said Shehbaz was stopped due to lack of procedural knowledge of his lawyers.

He or his lawyer did not file an application to the FIA along with the court order for removal of Shehbaz’s name from the blacklist, he said, adding that now the FIA Lahore had received the application.

Till the filing of the story in the evening, the fate of Shehbaz Sharif’s application was not decided by the FIA, sources said.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry Saturday said Shehbaz Sharif's lawyers had not yet requested the DG FIA to remove his name from the blacklist.

In a tweet, the minister contended that the director general of the FIA had the authority to include names in the blacklist or remove them.

“Record cannot be changed by word of mouth alone; the government will go to the court against this decision,” he said.

Fawad noted that the interesting thing was that Shehbaz Sharif booked his ticket even before filing a petition.

He said there were no separate standards of justice for the poor and the rich.