News Desk |
After a long legal battle, the National Accountably Bureau (NAB) was able to arrest Hamza Shahbaz, opposition leader in Punjab Assembly, on Tuesday after the Lahore High Court rejected to extend his bail. A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Mazahir Ali Naqvi, dismissed the petitions after the PML-N leader’s lawyer requested it to allow him to withdraw the applications in the cases related to Saaf Pani Company, Ramazan Sugar Mills and assets. The NAB is expected to present Hamza Shahbaz before an accountability court to seek his physical remand.
The arrest is important in the present political context where Asif Ali Zardari has been arrested and Nawaz Sharif is already serving his sentence. The opposition was expected to launch an anti-government campaign after Eid but these arrests have seriously weakened their ability to show street power. Political commentators believe that these arrests were already on the cards and have nothing to do with the ongoing anti-government campaign. Hamza Shahbaz was expected to be arrested before Eid but he was able to get unprecedented relief from the LHC.
On 6th April, Saturday which is generally not a working day, Hamza’s legal counsel approached the LHC where the Chief Justice ordered NAB not to arrest him
The NAB argues that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader exceeded his authority in the Ramzan Sugar Mills, and ordered the construction of a drain for financial gains. The NAB told the court that Rs180 million were transferred to the account of Shehbaz between 2005 and 2008, and subsequently, the amount was transferred abroad.
During the investigation, the PML-N leader also failed to give a satisfactory answer to the transaction of Rs180m made into his account, the NAB stated. The prosecutor said Hamza Shehbaz was also a shareholder in Ramzan Energy Limited.
The NAB said assets of children of Shehbaz Sharif were worth Rs50m in 1999, while Hamza Shehbaz showed Rs22m assets in his declaration in 2001. In 2017, the assets owned by Hamza rose to a value of Rs411m. The prosecutor said Hamza failed to justify the legality of his Rs388m out of total assets.
The NAB official said Shehbaz Sharif inherited only Ramzan Sugar Mills, while Shehbaz’s children and mother had 11 factories to their name. He said the sources of Sharif family’s assets of Rs 3.7 billion couldn’t be traced. The NAB alleged that Hamza Shehbaz indulged in money laundering to hide illegal sources of his income.
It is important to mention here that on 5th and 6th April a team of the NAB raided Hamza’s residence to take him into custody. On 6th April, Saturday which is generally not a working day, Hamza’s legal counsel approached the LHC where the Chief Justice ordered NAB not to arrest him. The anti-corruption watchdog was ordered to appear before the court on Monday. Later on, the court extended bail of Hamza till 19th April.
It is believed that if the NAB prepares a serious and compelling reference against Hamza Shahbaz then he may face some serious legal challenges. But as the track record of the anti-corruption watchdog reveals that it is generally incompetent to ensure that the reference is filed in line with the legal requirements and carries substantial evidence.