LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Wednesday extended the pre-arrest bail of the Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly, Hamza Shahbaz, till April 25 in three inquiries by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), including in Ramzan Sugar Mills, Punjab Saaf Pani Company and assets beyond means.

Police took strict security measures on the high court premises before appearance of Mr Hamza as no one was allowed to attend the proceedings except the lawyers engaged in the case from both sides --- the NAB and the petitioner.

The police personnel also denied access to the media as majority of the reporters failed to enter the courtroom despite their names being mentioned in a list provided to the police by public relations department of the high court.

PML-N leaders and workers were also kept away from the block where a two-judge bench sat to hear the bail petitions.

During the hearing, a NAB additional prosecutor told the bench that Mr Hamza appeared before an investigation team of the bureau the other day but he failed to answer the interrogators’ queries. He said Hamza took a plea that he would respond to the queries in the court.

Hamza’s counsel complained that the copies of a questionnaire and the case record provided by the NAB were either incomplete or unreadable. He sought time to respond to the bureau’s queries.

The bench comprising Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan and Justice Mirza Viqas Rauf adjourned the hearing, extending the interim pre-arrest bail of Mr Hamza till April 25.

The bench also issued notice to the NAB on another petition of Mr Hamza seeking contempt proceedings against the officials of the anti-graft watchdog for conducting raids at his residence in violation of a court order.

The opposition leader contended that the court in an order disposed of his previous bail petition with a direction to the NAB to communicate to Mr Hamza if it found any ground for his arrest so that he could have sufficient time of at least ten days for approaching the court of competent jurisdiction.

However, he said the NAB issued arrest warrants and raided his house twice in sheer violation of the court’s order. Therefore, he asked the court to initiate contempt proceedings against the officials involved in conducting raids at his residence.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2019