–PML-N leader’s guards thwart NAB’s effort to arrest Hamza Shehbaz in money laundering case
—Hamza livid, says NAB humiliating him just like it treated late Brigadier Asad Munir
–Bilawal Bhutto calls raid ‘authoritarian & undemocratic’
LAHORE: A raid by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to arrest Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz from his house in Lahore’s Model Town area failed after the lawmaker’s guards resisted the search, forcing the NAB team to return empty-handed despite a “warrant”.
The accountability watchdog sent its team to 96-H in Model Town– residence of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif and his sons Hamza and Suleman Shahbaz – to arrest the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly after finding proof against him in two graft cases.
Hamza was present inside the house at the time of the raid.
At present, former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz and his sons Hamza and Salman are facing multiple NAB inquiries, including the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing scam and Ramzan Sugar Mills cases.
NAB SAYS IT HAD A ‘WARRANT’:
After the fiasco, NAB issued a statement, saying it had sent the Lahore team at Hamza’s residence after acquiring new proofs of the PML-N leader’s involvement in money laundering and accumulating assets beyond means.
The statement claimed that the guards assaulted the team and threatened them of grave consequences. “Their clothes were torn and death threats were given,” it read.
It noted that the Supreme Court has made it very clear that NAB does not need to inform suspects prior to their arrest. “Therefore, there has been a clear violation of the law by Hamza Shehbaz,” NAB said.
“Those who interfere in bureau’s legal action and the operations of the state will be proceeded against as per the law,” the statement added.
‘NAB VIOLATED HOME’S SANCTITY’:
Later in the day, Hamza addressed a fiery presser outside his residence, saying the way NAB raided his house made him feel like he was a terrorist. He said that the raid was in complete violation of the sanctity of a home.
He said he appeared before NAB whenever it summoned him, but it still resorted to “humiliating” him. He alluded to the suicide by a former army officer, Asad Munir, due to NAB’s humiliating tactics.
“The way that NAB humiliates people ─ should I take my own life?” Hamza asked. “NAB has become deadly.”
“Yesterday the Council of Islamic Ideology also said that handcuffing people without proving their guilt was forbidden in Islam,” he added.
The PML-N MPA questioned the need for the raid in the light of his regular appearances before the body and a court order that binds NAB to intimate him before the arrest.
Flashing a purported copy of the Lahore High Court order, the Sharif scion said as per this order I have to be informed 10 days prior to the arrest. He said the court had told him he would be given an opportunity to make a case for obtaining bail as well.
Hamza, who is facing several cases in NAB, was put on no-fly list December last year. However, his name was later removed on a court order so he could go to London to see his newborn daughter who had to undergo a cardiac procedure due to complications at birth. He said in compliance with the order he returned to Pakistan a day before the relief granted to him by the LHC expired.
PML-N DENOUNCES RAID:
The NAB raid at the leader’s residence did not sit down well the party leaders and supporters, who gathered outside the house to show solidarity with Hamza.
In a press release, PML-N Spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb lashed out at NAB for raiding the house without “any warrant”, contesting the contents of the NAB statement.
NAB’s version is “a complete lie, contrary to reality and an effort to hide its own sins”, the statement released by the party’s media cell said.
The statement further said that the party was in contact with legal experts and will decide its future strategy in light of the latter’s advice.
“Under which law was this raid conducted without any prior notice? Are Hamza and Shehbaz terrorists?” she lashed out, adding that the “current government is afraid of Shehbaz and it is using NAB to advance its own goals”.
“NAB raided without a warrant after they failed to prove graft charges against the Sharifs,” she stressed.
Later on, Sharifs’ security in-charge lodged a FIR at Model Town police station, nominating four NAB officials and 12 unknown individuals for breaking in the house and ‘threatening’ the Sharif family. NAB Sub-Inspector Umar Daraz, ASIs Muhammad Lateef, ASI Muhammad Saleem and Mansha Akhtar have been nominated in the FIR.
The FIR claims that the NAB team did not have a arrest warrant with them, adding that when the guards inquired from the NAB team, they forced their way into the house to arrest PML-N leader Hamza.
BILAWAL SAYS ‘HIGHLY UNDEMOCRATIC’
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who has stepped up NAB bashing over the past few weeks for opening cases against his family, was among the first to condemn the bureau’s action.
He said, “If the home has been raided by NAB without a warrant then it is highly condemnable,” while terming the raid “authoritarian & undemocratic”.
“PPP doesn’t oppose accountability but we oppose political vendettas in the name of accountability,” added Bilawal.
NAB IS INDEPENDENT:
Punjab Chief Minister’s Spokesperson Shahbaz Gill responded to the allegations and said that the government was not involved in the matter, asserting “NAB is an independent institution”.
Another PTI leader, PTI Central Secretary Information Omar Sarfraz Cheema, also backed the bureau. He said, “If Hamza considers himself innocent then he should have brought the evidence to the NAB hearings.”
He further said that the corruption cases should be brought to logical conclusion and accountability should be across the board.
He said the Punjab government will provide further assistance to NAB, if asked, as a constitutional obligation.