Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz on Friday lashed out at the government and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) after a NAB team seeking his arrest conducted a raid on his family's Model Town residence.
Earlier today, a NAB team conducted a raid on the 96-H house, believed to be Shehbaz Sharif's residence, allegedly because Hamza was "not cooperating" in the assets beyond means case, NAB sources told DawnNewsTV.
NAB in a press release issued after the incident said that its Lahore team, armed with arrest warrants for Hamza, had raided the residence to take him into custody in the assets beyond means case and a money laundering case.
The press release noted that the Supreme Court has made it very clear that NAB does not need to inform suspects prior to their arrest.
It said that Hamza's guards had beaten members of the NAB team, tore their clothes, and threatened their lives.
The NAB statement added: "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 added.
The PML-N was quick to denounce NAB's version as "a complete lie, contrary to reality and an effort to hide its [NAB's] own sins" in a statement released by the party's media cell. PML-N strongly condemned NAB's "illegal and immoral step".
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.
NAB sources had earlier told DawnNewsTV that the bureau carried out the raid because Hamza was allegedly "not cooperating" in a case of amassing assets beyond means against him.
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb alleged that the NAB team had entered the residence "without any permission, warrant or prior intimation". She said that NAB personnel had scuffled with the private security guards at the house and then carried out a search of the residence.
Spokesperson for the Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Gill said that NAB is an autonomous institution and does not require the government's permission to carry out any action. He rejected criticism of NAB by the opposition and claimed that the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf "doesn't believe in political victimisation".
He said the Punjab government will provide further assistance to NAB, if asked, as a constitutional obligation.
'Felt like we are terrorists'
Hamza Shehbaz, while addressing a press conference following the incident, said he had felt like a terrorist because of the way NAB had raided the residence.
"The sanctity of the home was violated," he said. "We are Pakistanis [...] For the first time, I felt like we are terrorists, the way the raid was conducted."
"Hamza Shahbaz is a Pakistani. Whenever I was given a notice, I would appear before NAB. I will not tell you the way they spoke to me," he said.
Hamza, whose name had been placed on the Exit Control List, was permitted by a court to travel abroad in February as his newborn daughter was to undergo a cardiac procedure due to complications at birth.
"May God give the nation's daughters health. My daughter was fighting for her life and Niazi sahab played politics on that as well," he claimed, adding that he had returned to Pakistan a day before the relief granted to him by the Lahore High Court expired.
The MPA then spoke of NAB's "humiliating treatment" and then referred to retired brigadier Asad Munir who had taken his own life earlier this year.
"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 is humiliation," he added.
"Bohat Superman ban ke aye thay," Hamza said of the NAB team. He showed a document that he described as a court order. "I have a court order saying that I will be informed 10 days prior to arrest," he said, adding that the court told him he would be given an opportunity to make a case for obtaining bail as well.
"What was the need for this step?" he asked, pointing out that he was regularly appearing before NAB when summoned.
In addition to the assets beyond means case, Hamza is facing an inquiry into the Ramzan Sugar Mills case. According to the NAB, Hamza and his younger brother Salman Shehbaz being directors of the sugar mills got constructed a bridge linking to their mills out of public money in Chiniot. It said an amount of Rs200 million was approved by then chief minister Shehbaz Sharif for the construction of the bridge.
'Hamza assaulted NAB officials; accountability won't stop'
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry accused Hamza of assaulting NAB officials but made it clear that the accountability process will not stop at any cost.
"Had Hamza Shehbaz been a politician and a true leader, he would have surrendered himself, and he would have said that 'arrest me and prove the allegations against me'," said Chaudhry in a chat with media personnel in Islamabad. "But we saw how private guards [were used today]. Today, NAB's party was assaulted. NAB's action was in accordance with law; they had the warrant.
"As an MPA, it was Hamza Shehbaz's responsibility to cooperate with NAB but instead he tortured NAB officials and impeded the investigation. But of course NAB itself will see what action is now to be taken."
Chaudhry alleged that "as per today's court proceedings, Hamza Shehbaz is the linchpin of an elaborate money laundering operation through which up to Rs100 billion were laundered out of Pakistan."
"Through these laundered funds, Shehbaz Sharif and family purchased their assets," he said. "This money is not Imran Khan's, it belongs to the people of Pakistan."
The information minister said that "Pakistan's external debt has soared almost three-fold from $37bn to $97bn in the last 10 years without the addition of any significant projects", for which he said "Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif are to be blamed."
"They say 'we have started power projects'," Chaudhry said. "So does electricity cost billion dollar per mega watt?"
Chaudhry said that neither Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari nor Hamza's threats would stop the accountability process. "This is not a circus. This has to be given a logical conclusion. That's in Pakistan's best interest."
PML-N workers stage sit-in
Following reports of the raid, a number of PML-N workers and supporters gathered outside the house and staged a sit-in, raising slogans against NAB.
PML-N leaders who arrived outside the residence after hearing of the raid strongly criticised the government and Prime Minister Khan.
They said that party workers have started assembling outside the house. "We will not tolerate [the] hooliganism of NAB," said a local PML-N leader.
"They are diverting the attention [of the nation] from inflation," said another leader.
PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also condemned the raid on Twitter.