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NAB’s attempt to arrest Hamza goes awry

April 06, 2019


LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz workers protest in front of the National Accountability Bureau officers outside Shahbaz Sharif’s residence on Friday.— Aun Jafri / White Star
LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz workers protest in front of the National Accountability Bureau officers outside Shahbaz Sharif’s residence on Friday.— Aun Jafri / White Star

LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday raided the Model Town residence of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif to arrest his son Hamza Shahbaz on charges of money laundering and income beyond means, but returned after facing resistance from his security guards and party workers.

The situation turned worse with each side blaming the other for harassment, as NAB filed an application with police to register an FIR against Hamza’s guards for interference in state’s function and requested the interior ministry to put his name on the no-fly list while the latter also approached the police to register a report against the raiding team of NAB.

The morning episode, however, rose political temperature further as some political observers believe the NAB’s raid on the residence of the opposition leader in the National Assembly may bring the opposition parties closer to launch a ‘joint campaign’ against the PTI-led government.

Interior ministry asked to put PML-N leader’s name on ECL; both sides approach police to lodge FIRs for torture, harassment

Just a day ago, the Pakistan Peoples Party leadership had declared to send the government packing if it attempted to roll back the 18th Amendment.

On Friday morning, NAB claimed, the raiding team members, who were accompanied by police, were manhandled.

The PML-N while denying the allegation said the NAB officials had been offered tea on their arrival.

A source told Dawn that the NAB team and police on four vehicles reached Mr Shahbaz’s residence at 11:10am and ‘requested’ his security men that they wanted to see Hamza. “When the raiding team members were told that Hamza was not home, they forced their entry into the house that resulted in a scuffle between them [NAB officials and Shahbaz/Hamza’s security men]. The NAB team was pushed back from the main gate.”

Meanwhile, PML-N workers arrived and surrounded the NAB team for more than an hour.

“Failing to nab the suspect (Hamza) the ‘besieged’ team of the bureau was ordered from their high-ups to leave,” the source said.

The protest against NAB continued even after the team had left, as PML-N workers chanted slogans against NAB and Prime Minister Imran Khan terming the action “NAB-Niazi alliance”.

Following the incident, both sides — NAB and PML-N — came up with their version of the story.

In a statement, NAB said: “NAB Lahore’s team members had gone to arrest Hamza Shahbaz in money laundering and income beyond means case, but his guards tortured them and tore the clothes of some of its members. The NAB team in the light of the Supreme Court order that it (NAB) can arrest any suspect without informing him beforehand had gone to arrest Hamza.

“NAB had obtained the arrest warrants of Hamza. Law will take its due course against those who interfered in the state’s function.”

The Lahore NAB also filed an application with Punjab police to register an FIR against Hamza’s guards for torturing its members and interference in the state function.

The PML-N rebuffed the bureau’s claim, saying “NAB’s every word is a lie and an effort to conceal the unlawful acts it committed by illegally violating the constitutional right to sanctity of a private premise.” The party said the NAB team barged into the private premise, misbehaving and pushing the guards at the gate while jumping over the walls of the house. “We are consulting with our legal experts to formulate a proper response to NAB’s supra-law act. The matter will be pursued on legal grounds and those responsible for this will be held accountable,” the PML-N said, adding that NAB’s conduct of harassment towards public leaders and cooperative individuals was disturbing.

“Although the NAB team members committed offence, the PML-N treated them in courteous manner and gave them tea and refreshments,” the PML-N said, adding that if NAB was so bent upon arresting anyone who was under investigation, it must start from its “ally” (prime minister) Imran Khan Niazi.

Shortly after the NAB team left, Mr Hamza appeared from his house and told the awaiting media that he “felt like a terrorist” the way the NAB officials violated the sanctity of the four-wall.

“NAB violated the sanctity of chadar and char dewari (four-wall). For the first time, I felt we are terrorists the way NAB officials behaved after trespassing.”It was NAB’s shameful act”.

Narrating the raid, the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly said: “The NAB officials tried to enter my house forcibly. Whenever I had been summoned, I appeared before NAB.

“What suddenly happened today that NAB had to raid my house? Humiliating attitude of NAB had forced retired brigadier Asad Munir to commit suicide. I do not want to tell what happened [to me] during my appearance before NAB in its office,” he lamented.

Citing a Lahore High Court (LHC) ruling, Mr Hamza said the LHC on Nov 20 clearly ruled on his application that NAB must inform him 10 days in advance if it intended to arrest him. “Why the court’s ruling was not followed. Why the NAB team was unaware of these facts,” he asked and termed NAB’s action a contempt of court.

Addressing PM Khan, Mr Hamza said: “Niazi sahib...economic conditions are worse. As Niazi sahib failed to deliver he ordered raid on our house. Imran’s bias has completely been exposed as during the last eight months he (Imran) couldn’t bring forth any proof against the Sharif family,” he said while regretting that his daughter was not well but Niazi sahib did politics on her health.

He declared that he would challenge the NAB action in court but despite this “vindictive action, the PML-N would not topple the PTI government”.

Reacting to the NAB’s action, his cousin and daughter of former premier Maryam Nawaz said: “After meeting failure on every front, the PTI government is using rude tactics. With the passage of time the government’s absolute incapability is proving. With such high-handedness it cannot hide its failures. Remember that Hamza Shahbaz had returned to the country leaving behind his new born ailing daughter in ICU (in London).”

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said in a tweet: “If leader of the opposition @CMShehbaz’s home has been raided by NAB without a warrant then it is highly condemnable. PPP doesn’t oppose accountability but we oppose political vendettas in the name of accountability. Yet another authoritarian & undemocratic move by the government.”

Information secretary of the ruling PTI Central Omar Sarfraz Cheema said: “Manhandling and harassment of NAB officials by guards of Hamza Shahbaz is extremely reprehensible. There is no ambiguity left that Sharif clan has nothing to present to justify their looted wealth.” He said the Sharifs could not escape accountability by shielding themselves behind workers. “Only the lawful authorities have the jurisdiction to arrest or release any person owing to the inquiries against him/her,” Mr Cheema said.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters in Islamabad that Hamza “assaulted NAB officials”.

“Had Hamza been a politician and a true leader, he would have surrendered himself before NAB,” said Mr Chaudhry while making it clear that the accountability process would not stop at any cost.

Meanwhile, an accountability court in Lahore granted remand of two suspects Qasim Qayum and Afzal Dad Abbasi to NAB till April 19. The suspects were allegedly involved in laundering ‘illegal’ wealth of Hamza and his brother Salman to other countries, according to NAB.

According to the sources, NAB decided to arrest Hamza after the arrest of these two ‘front men’. Salman Shahbaz is reportedly in London.

NAB later wrote to the interior ministry to place Hamza’s name on the Exit Control List. “We have written a letter to the interior ministry to immediately place Hamza Shahbaz’s name on ECL as there are chances that he may leave the country to evade his arrest in money laundering and income beyond means case,” an official told Dawn.

In a late night development, Hamza’s lawyers reached the Model Town police station to lodge an FIR against NAB’s raiding team members for harassment.

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2019