LHC grants pre-arrest bail to Hamza Shahbaz

Lahore: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday granted pre-arrest bail to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senior leader and Punjab Assembly’s opposition leader Hamza Shahbaz for 10 days against Rs10 million surety bonds on a petition he had filed on Saturday to refrain the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from arresting him in an ongoing investigation into assets beyond known sources of income and money laundering case.

Subsequently, the court ordered the NAB to submit its response on the matter till April 17.

A two-member bench comprising Justice Malik Shehzad and Justice Waqas Rauf presided over the hearing.

As the hearing resumed, the court asked NAB’s prosecutor, “In which case the bureau wills to arrest Hamza?”

To which, the prosecutor told the court that there were three cases against Hamza; including assets beyond known sources of income, Saaf Pani and Ramzan Sugar Mills cases. However, arrest warrants have not been issued yet in Saaf Pani and Ramzan Sugar Mills cases.

Scores of PML-N workers, while holding banners inscribed with slogans in Hamza’s favour, chanted full-throat slogans, until they were warned by security that they would be expelled from the premises if they did not show respect for the court.

They continued a silent show of support for their leader thereafter. On the other hand, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lahore team also prepared a charge sheet against Hamza Shahbaz as a special prosecutor and an eight-member legal team appeared before the court. Whereas, advocate Amjad Pervaiz represented Hamza.

Punjab home department had formulated a foolproof security measures for the hearing.

A heavy contingent of police and security personnel was deployed at the surroundings of the court, accountability court and at the Mall Road to avoid any untoward incident.

Earlier on Saturday, the LHC had refrained the bureau from arresting Hamza while giving him a protective bail till April 8 after he had filed a pre-arrest bail plea on the same day.

In the petition, Hamza had claimed that NAB’s team had carried out a raid at his residence without a prior notice while the LHC has instructed officials to give a prior notice before his arrest.

The plea further pleaded with the court for suspending the arrest warrants and an action against the NAB for “contempt of court”.

A team of the NAB swooped on the 96-H house, believed to be Shehbaz Sharif’s residence, allegedly because Hamza Shehbaz was “not cooperating” in the ongoing investigation in the case.

Contrarily, the NAB, in a press release, disclosed that its Lahore team had raided the residence for arresting him in the assets beyond means case and a money laundering case.

Importantly, the press release noted that the Supreme Court has made it very clear that NAB did not need to inform suspects prior to their arrest.

Moreover, the NAB statement maintained, “Therefore, there has been a clear violation of the law by Hamza Shehbaz.”

“Those who interfere in NAB’s legal action and the operations of the state will be proceeded against as per the law,” the statement had read.

Besides, a First Information Report (FIR) was also lodged on Saturday against Hamza Shehbaz’s guards on an application filed by the NAB over the matter that Hamza’s guards had manhandled members of the NAB team, tore their clothes, and threatened their lives.

According to police, the FIR includes clauses of interference in official matters, torture, hooliganism and issuance of threats.

The FIR was registered on an application filed by a driver Mumtaz Hussain, working for the NAB, that accuses Hamza’s security guards namely Abdul Rehman, Shahbaz Khan and Muhammad Saleem and six other guards for attacking, resisting and threatening the bureau’s team.

NAB sources revealed that Hamza Shahbaz had declared property worth 2 crore in 2003 while his assets grew 2,000 percent during the PML-N’s tenure of the government. The opposition leader had allegedly laundered Rs85 billion. Officials revealed that they had already detained several facilitators of the Sharif family in the same case.