Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N President, Leader of the Opposition, and the younger brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Monday afternoon, according to reports on local media.
He was taken into custody after a two-member bench of the Lahore High Court, headed by Justice Sardar Ahmed Naeem, rejected his bail plea, and allowed the bureau to arrest Shehbaz and probe a money laundering case worth USD 41.9 million. Accordingly, the bureau took Sharif to Lahore’s detention centre.
Make no mistake. Shehbaz Sharif has been arrested ONLY because he REFUSED to play in the hands of those who wanted to use him against his brother. He preferred standing behind prison bars than to stand against his brother. Shahbaz Sharif, aap ko SALAM!
— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) September 28, 2020
Shehbaz is a veteran politician
70-year-old Sharif operates as a businessman by profession and jointly owns the Ittefaq Group, a multimillion-dollar steel conglomerate. He began his political career after getting elected to the Provincial Assembly of Punjab as a candidate of Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (JI) in the year 1988’s general election.
He has served three terms as the Chief Minister of Punjab and is currently Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. In his capacity as Leader of Opposition, Sharif served as the Chairman Public Accounts Committee from 22 December 2018 till 28 November 2019. Post resignation, he was succeeded by Rana Tanveer Hussain.
The case against Shehbaz
In December 2019, the anti-graft watchdog had issued orders to freeze 23 properties owned by Sharif and his sons, Hamza and Suleman, based on claims that they had acquired these assets outside known and proven sources of income, having committed money laundering.
According to the National Accountability Bureau, an investigation against the father and sons, among others, had revealed that Sharif had acquired properties in the names of his two wives; Nusrat and Tehmina Durrani.
Among the frozen properties were nine plots, located Johar Town, Lahore, four plots in Judicial Colony, two houses in Model Town, and a number of others in DHA. Furthermore, the anti-corruption body had also frozen a villa as well as a cottage in Pir Sohawa, in addition to another two plots in Chiniot.
PM Imran-led government files case
Just last week, the Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government filed a money laundering case against the Sharif family. PM Imran Khan’s advisor on Interior and Accountability, Shahzad Akbar, alleged that Sharif and his sons were involved in money laundering through a channel of sham accounts.
Akbar claimed that the financial monitoring unit had detected a number of 177 suspicious transactions through the Sharif family, after which NAB initiated a probe. He said that the case comprised 55 volumes and 25,000 pages worth of documentary evidence against the Sharifs, including, but not limited to, company records, bank statements as well as foregin remittances.
Akbar subsequently claimed that billions of rupees were laundered through the Sharif family’s employees. Akbar further accused Shahbaz and Hamza Sharif of taking kickbacks and commissions in return for party tickets and projects to favorites.
Akbar guaranteed that the record had been compiled post detailed investigation by NAB teams which nominated 16 accused in the case – “six family members and their 10 accomplices”. He added how four of the accused had already turned approvers and disclosed their roles in money laundering, as carried out by the Sharif family.
Akbar further identified how approximately Rs 9.5 billion were laundered by the Sharif family through fake companies and Ramazan Sugar Mills whose employees’ salaries were in thousands yet billions went through their bank accounts.
He subsequently demanded that Sharif should have to explain the origins and organisation of the money-laundering network that was run and monitored by his sons between the years 2008 to 2018.
Prior to his arrest, Sharif claimed that the PM wanted to have him arrested. He stated; “It is the unholy alliance of Imran Khan and NAB that wanted to put me behind bars”.
Reactions to Sharif’s arrest
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, PPP chief and son of former president Zardari and former premier Benazir Bhutto, condemned Shehbaz’s arrest, alleging that PM Imran Khan was worried that the opposition alliance would succeed in forcing his government out.
Shahbaz Sharif thanks Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for speaking out against the arrests of PML-N workers pic.twitter.com/SpeVECbQtG
— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) July 14, 2018
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz too strongly criticised the arrest of her uncle, claiming that he was being “punished” for standing by his brother Sharif’s side. (see tweet above)
Pakistan’s major opposition parties have demanded immediate resignation of Prime Minister Khan and have planned nationwide protests in the subsequent month to oust his government.