News Analysis |
Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday extended the interim pre-arrest bail for Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz till April 25. On the other hand, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) argued that it had evidence that Hamza Shahbaz was involved in money laundering and corrupt practices. However, the court was not convinced and extended the bail.
NAB’s Arguments in the Court
NAB’s lawyer told the court that the bureau’s replies in the Saaf Pani case, the Ramzan Sugar Mills case, and the money laundering case had been submitted. According to the corruption watchdog, Hamza chaired Saaf Pani Company meetings without having any authority. It transpired during probe that Hamza Shahbaz influenced contracts issued by the company.
The LHC is offering unprecedented verdicts these days. You can approach the LHC and if you are involved in high profile case e.g. killing of many people or money laundering, the LHC shall provide you maximum relief.
It further said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader exceeded his authority in the Ramzan Sugar Mills, and ordered construction of a drain for financial gains. The NAB told the court that Rs180 million were transferred to the account of Shahbaz 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 transaction of Rs180m made into his account, the NAB stated. The prosecutor said Hamza Shahbaz was also a shareholder in Ramzan Energy Limited.
The NAB said assets of children of Shahbaz Sharif were worth Rs50m in 1999, while Hamza Shahbaz 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 legality of his Rs388m out of total assets.
The NAB official said Shahbaz Sharif inherited only Ramzan Sugar Mills, while Shahbaz’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 Shahbaz indulged in money laundering to hide illegal sources of his income.
Meanwhile, Hamza’s lawyer argued that he had not been provided proper copies of the reply. “The copies we got are not readable. Had we had proper copies we would have submitted our response to the replies today,” the lawyer said.
LHC’s Unprecedented Relief to Hamza
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.
The NAB said assets of children of Shahbaz Sharif were worth Rs50m in 1999, while Hamza Shahbaz showed Rs22m assets in his declaration in 2001. In 2017, the assets owned by Hamza rose to a value of Rs411m.
GVS approached a senior lawyer based in Lahore for his comments over the latest extension of Hamza’s bail, granted by LHC. “The LHC is offering unprecedented verdicts these days. You can approach the LHC and if you are involved in high profile case e.g. killing of many people or money laundering, the LHC shall provide you maximum relief”.
He also maintained a large number of lawyers are now skeptical of the decisions being given by the LHC. “You saw recently a senior most Judge of the Supreme Court recently remarked that the SC is not the LHC where you can get decisions of your choice through making noise,” he added.
In the case of Hamza, the lawyer believes that despite all evidence presented by the NAB, the LHC decided not to let the anti-corruption watchdog arrest him. “When the NAB was offering sufficient amount of evidence and wants Hamza to be taken into custody for interrogation what is the point of giving unprecedented relief to him[Hamza]?” he asked.
Moreover, political commentators believe that the decisions being given by the LHC shall be challenged in the due course before the SC and it is likely that the SC may reverse all that done by the LHC.