LAHORE: A Lahore High Court division bench on Monday granted interim pre-arrest bail to Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz restraining the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from arresting him till April 17 in a case of alleged assets beyond means.

Hundreds of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) workers had already gathered inside the high court building when Hamza arrived to attend proceedings of his bail petition before the bench comprising Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan and Justice Mirza Viqas Rauf. A heavy police contingent was also deputed in and outside the high court to maintain law and order.

The bench also took notice of the presence of political workers in the courtroom and instructed Hamza’s lawyers to ensure silence in the court.

PML-N leaders, including Malik Mohammad Ahmad and Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan, were also present in the courtroom.

Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar, the lead counsel for the opposition leader, resumed his arguments and stated that NAB conducted two illegal raids on the residence of the petitioner to make his arrest in violation of a previous order.

He reiterated that the court had in its Nov 20 order directed the bureau to communicate grounds of arrest, if any, to the petitioner enabling to him approach the court concerned for pre-arrest bail. However, he said, NAB in violation of the order was bent upon arresting the petitioner.

A NAB prosecutor told the bench that three inquiries were in progress against Hamza Shahbaz on charges of corruption in the Punjab Saaf Pani Company, Ramzan Sugar Mills and possessing assets beyond known sources of income. However, he said, Hamza’s arrest was required in the case of assets beyond means.

He said a suspicious transaction of Rs3 billion had taken place in Hamza’s accounts and the petitioner had failed to justify it. He claimed that the bureau had collected irrefutable evidence against the petitioner and his arrest was inevitable to ensure that the record did not disappear at the behest of the petitioner.

Refuting an argument of the petitioner’s counsel, the prosecutor referred to a Supreme Court decision and said the order of the high court regarding 10-day limitation before arrest stood infructuous as the apex court had allowed the bureau to arrest any accused at any time.

However, the bench observed that the situation was different now since a fresh writ petition for bail had been filed by the petitioner.

The bench directed the NAB prosecutor to submit a written reply while granting interim pre-arrest bail to Hamza till April 17 subject to a surety bond of Rs10 million.

On Saturday, LHC Chief Justice Sardar Mohammad Shamim Khan had granted protective bail to Hamza Shahbaz till Monday when a team of NAB was present outside his Model Town residence to arrest him.

Meanwhile, NAB has summoned Hamza tomorrow (Wednesday) to answer questions in the assets beyond means case.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2019