–PML-N chief says cannot appear before bureau due to weak immune system, suggests Skype interview
–LHC to take up NA Opp leader’s pre-arrest bail plea on Wednesday
–Marriyum lashes out at ‘NAB-Niazi nexus’, accuses accountability watchdog of contempt of court
LAHORE: A National Accountability Bureau (NAB) team on Tuesday raided the Model Town residence of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif to arrest him after he skipped another hearing at the anti-graft watchdog’s Lahore headquarters on account of a weak immune system in the wake of coronavirus.
The team stayed at Shehbaz’s residence for at least two hours, but it left when it learned that the National Assembly opposition leader was not at home. It later left for Jati Umra –the residence of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif– in search of Shehbaz.
The four-member team reportedly led by NAB Deputy Director Chaudhry Muhammad Asghar included three female officials. According to NAB sources, the female officials had been taken along to ensure a thorough search of the house.
The NAB ‘visit’ came after the PML-N president skipped a hearing in a case of assets beyond means. Instead, in his response to the anti-graft watchdog, Shehbaz said its team could question him via Skype because he was a cancer survivor and did not wish to pose a risk to his health amid the coronavirus pandemic. He added that some of the NAB’s officers had tested positive for the deadly respiratory illness as well.
On May 4, Shehbaz had appeared before NAB— unlike his response to previous summons — in which he had maintained that he couldn’t join the investigation in person due to Covid-19.
Responding to the questions, he had said all his assets had been declared and he had already submitted the relevant details to NAB. However, NAB had termed the reply and record submitted by Shehbaz unsatisfactory and had summoned him again on June 2, asking him to come along with the required information.
Addressing reporters outside Shehbaz’s Model Town residence, PML-N Spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the raid was the result of “NAB-Niazi nexus”.
Aurangzeb said Shehbaz had to go to the NAB’s office earlier today and that he had yesterday submitted a petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) claiming the operations of NAB were “ill-intentioned and based on political revenge”.
“The entire nation is aware of the nefarious agendas of NAB-Niazi nexus. A divisional bench of the LHC has scheduled a hearing for the petition for tomorrow,” she said, adding that the PML-N president wrote to the anti-graft body about how its officers had tested positive for coronavirus and since he’s a cancer survivor, he would not make an appearance.
“The cases on Shehbaz — from Ganda Naala, Saaf Pani, Ashiana scheme, 56 companies, earthquake funds embezzlement — are false allegations. The entire drama since the past two-and-a-half years is in front of the Pakistani people.
“Despite all such allegations, Shehbaz continued to appear in front of the law and the NAB,” she said, alleging further that the authorities outside the PML-N president’s residence had beaten up party workers, including women.
“Why isn’t Imran sahab arrested, why isn’t Imran sahab summoned? The chief minister of Punjab who stole the nation’s sugar, who stole Rs3 billion from the people’s pockets and put it into thieves’ pockets… He is not arrested or summoned.
“Shehbaz Sharif remained in the NAB’s custody for 133 days. What questions couldn’t be asked in those 133 days?”
Aurangzeb added that no corruption allegation against Shehbaz had been proven and that today’s development was a “purposeful attempt to divert attention from sugar crisis report and the government’s lack of strategy for coronavirus response”.
Addressing NAB Chairperson Justice (r) Javed Iqbal, she said: “If NAB team is here to arrest Shehbaz, then the people of Pakistan will go to Bani Gala to arrest Imran Khan who stole Pakistani people’s sugar!”
LHC TO HEAR PLEA:
Meanwhile, a Lahore High Court (LHC) division bench has fixed Shehbaz’s plea for pre-arrest bail in the case for Wednesday. The bench comprising Justice Muhammad Tariq Abbasi and Justice Farooq Haider will hear the matter.
Shehbaz Sharif filed the petition through Advocate Amjad Pervaiz. He said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had launched an investigation against him over charges of assets beyond means and money laundering. He submitted that the investigation was pending for the last 16 months, but the bureau had not filed any reference yet.
Shehbaz submitted that he extended full cooperation to the NAB authorities and appeared before the investigation team on being summoned. He submitted that the instant proceedings were prompted by mala fide intentions.
Shehbaz Sharif submitted that the bureau had thoroughly investigated him about assets during his custody earlier, but could not confront him with any evidence to suggest any nexus with misuse of power in amassing assets.
“In the absence of any evidence worth name to suggest any nexus between amassing of assets and abuse or misuse of office, an offence in terms of Section 9(a)(v) of NAO 1999 cannot be attracted,” he contended while terming the investigation illegal and unlawful.
He submitted that the NAB chairman did not have any authority to launch investigations into money laundering allegations under the Anti-Money Laundering Act. Shehbaz submitted that the bureau had again summoned him in connection with the investigation on June 2 and it was feared that he might be arrested.
He submitted that he extended full cooperation and furnished all record, hence, his intended arrest at this stage was nothing but sheer mala fide. He pleaded with the court for a grant of pre-arrest bail in the case. He also requested for interim bail till the final decision on the petition.