LAHORE: Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz on Saturday filed a petition with the Lahore High Court (LHC), seeking bail in the wake of the “extraordinary, alarming” coronavirus situation in the country.
According to the petition, “the concern about the spread of coronavirus is most relevant to the prisons,” as the confined space in prison makes it “virtually impossible to implement the policy of social distancing”.
“The prisoners are vulnerable and exposed to suffer irreparably in case of an outbreak. God forbid a prison outbreak is likely to present potentially deadly risk to its inmates.”
The petition also noted that the situation poses a risk to the life of [Hamza Shehbaz], requesting the court to grant him bail.
It further said that in the ten months since the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had arrested Hamza, no reference was filed against him by the anti-graft watchdog.
The Bureau had arrested Hamza in June last year after the LHC dismissed as withdrawn his bail petitions in two inquiries – assets beyond means and Ramzan Sugar Mills.
He, along with his brother Salman Shehbaz, is accused of embezzling Rs200 million from public funds in order to build a bridge benefiting Ramzan Sugar Mills — of which he is a director — in Chiniot. The money, according to NAB, was released by Shehbaz Sharif, then chief minister of Punjab, who is also a suspect in the case.
In February this year, an LHC bench had granted him post-arrest bail in the case in question.
Hamza is also accused of owning assets beyond means and is being probed by a combined investigation team from NAB. According to the Bureau which quizzed him multiple times before finally arresting him, Hamza was unable to satisfy the investigation team regarding properties owned by him in Pakistan and abroad.
Separately, Hamza also faces an inquiry into the Saaf Pani Company case for presiding over some meetings of its board of directors and allegedly issuing orders regarding the award of contracts.
The anti-corruption watchdog claims Hamza was not even a member of the board at the time he attended the meetings. According to it, Hamza had also awarded certain contracts despite not having any authority to do so.
Saaf Pani is one of the 56 public-sector companies formed by the Shahbaz administration in Punjab, that are being probed by NAB for alleged irregularities, recruitment in violation of procurement rules and merit, nepotism, and non-completion of various projects in time.