–Maryam says PML-N president arrested ‘because he refused to play in the hands of those who wanted to use him against his brother’
LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President and National Assembly Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif from the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday after his petition seeking extension in the pre-arrest bail in the money laundering case was rejected.
The high court had extended his pre-arrest bail last week, while the arguments of his counsel were in progress.
Shehbaz was taken into custody from the court’s premises, where a large number of party workers and supporters had gathered ahead of the hearing.
During the proceeding, defence legal counsel, Azam Nazir Tarar, contended that Shehbaz’s arrest at this stage of the case could not be justified. “NAB’s dishonesty is apparent everywhere,” he said.
Tarar declared the cases against Shehbaz fake as he observed the PML-N president was already facing two other graft probes.
According to the defence, the government wanted to keep in prison to rig the upcoming local government elections. He further pointed out that though the copies of the reference had been provided, Shehbaz was yet to be indicted.
Speaking during the hearing, the counsel for the agency, Faisal Bukhari, said that the probe in the money-laundering case was started after fulfilling all legal formalities. He further said that there were decisions by courts that dictate that arrests can take place after filing a reference.
He told the court that Sharif’s assets between 2008-2018 had grown multifold. He further said that the opposition leader could not explain how he was able to buy four apartments abroad and had not shared when his business had started and its income.
Tarar told the court that the former Punjab chief minister had done a net saving of Rs81 billion in the Orange Line Train Project and Rs400 million in the taxi project. Collectively, Tarar said, Shehbaz had saved Rs1 trillion in net savings.
He further said that the PML-N president had never received any ta-da or salary.
Amjad Pervaiz, who was also representing Shehbaz in court, said that none of Shehbaz’s children were his dependents, adding that in its judgement in the Panama Papers case, the Supreme Court (SC) had explained the matter.
He further said that Shehbaz’s wife has been a filer since 2004, while his sons Suleman Shehbaz and Hamza Shehbaz had been tax filers since 1996. The PML-N president’s daughters Javeria Ali and Rabia Imran were also tax filers since 2007.
Pervaiz argued that in the 58-volume money laundering reference prepared by NAB, there was “not a single documentary evidence” against Shehbaz. The opposition leader had declared all of his assets, Pervaiz said and added that according to records of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) as well as other revenue departments, Shehbaz was not a benamidar.
The lawyer argued that there are four approvers in the case but none of them had recorded a statement against Shehbaz.
Shehbaz also spoke before the court and said that the allegation against him was “very painful and sad”. He insisted that he had “not done corruption or taken a single rupee in kickbacks”.
After the arrest, many members of the PML-N party clashed with the police.
Reacting to Shehbaz’s arrest in a tweet, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said that the PML-N president was arrested “because he refused to play in the hands of those who wanted to use him against his brother [former premier Nawaz Sharif]”.
Later, addressing a press conference with other PML-N leaders, Maryam said, “I do not have a grain of doubt that Shehbaz Sharif was not arrested for corruption or accountability. A reference against him was ongoing and he was arrested in the middle.”
Maryam called this incident “a very sad day,” adding, “not only did not leave his brother’s side, but he showed loyalty and commitment to his brother and his cause and did not waiver for a second. His wife and children were made absconders, [his son] Hamza is in jail and has corona. Despite this, he stands with his brother unwaveringly.”
PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb also censured the arrest, alleging it was “political victimisation” by the government.
“The entire nation has been handcuffed through Shehbaz’s arrest,” she said outside court, saying the arrest was a result of the “NAB-Niaz nexus”.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, in a statement, condemned the arrest and demanded Sharif’s immediate release.
پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری کی اپوزیشن لیڈر شہباز شریف کی گرفتاری کی شدید الفاظ میں مذمت
پاکستان ڈیموکریٹک موومنٹ سے بوکھلائے عمران خان اوچھے ہتھکنڈوں پر اتر آئے ہیں، چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری@BBhuttoZardari
— PPP (@MediaCellPPP) September 28, 2020
He claimed the prime minister was worried about the opposition alliance, formed to oust the PTI government, and was resorting to “dirty tactics”.
“Sending notices and arresting opposition politicians is a sign of Imran Khan’s worry,” he added.
“The federal government should immediately release opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif. Imran Khan should stop using NAB for political revenge.”
Pictures by Zubair Mehfooz