The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday arrested Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz from inside the Lahore High Court (LHC) in two cases regarding money laundering and holding assets beyond means.
A NAB team left the court with Hamza, who was taken to the Thokar Niaz Baig offices of the accountability watchdog.
The arrest took place after Hamza's lawyer withdrew the application for bail extension in the two corruption cases, following which a two-member LHC bench headed by Justice Mazahir Ali Naqvi recalled Hamza's interim bail.
Hamza's lawyer withdrew the bail application after the LHC bench refused to entertain his request for ordering NAB to produce a Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) document that contains details of money laundering allegations against his client.
An LHC bench had earlier this month extended Hamza's pre-arrest interim bail till June 11 in two of the inquiries initiated by NAB.
Prior to his arrest today, while speaking to the media, Hamza said that not even a "one rupee" corruption could be proven against him. "I will quit politics if it is proven that I was involved in corrupt practices," he said.
Hamza, the son of PML-N president and National Assembly opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif, is facing inquiries in the cases related to Ramzan Sugar Mills, money laundering and assets beyond means.
His arrest comes hours before the budget for fiscal year 2019-20 is due to be presented in a National Assembly session during which the opposition is expected to give a tough time to the government. It also comes a day after former president and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari was arrested by NAB in Islamabad.
PML-N vice president and Hamza's cousin Maryam Nawaz condemned the arrest of the Punjab opposition leader, holding what she referred to as the "fake government" responsible for it. "Prisons are neither new for Hamza Shahbaz nor for the PML-N, we have faced the atrocities perpetrated by a dictator," she wrote on Twitter.
"The NAB dancing on the commands of the puppet prime minister has crossed all limits of oppression and injustice. Those doing so have neither been able to save themselves from the wrath of history in the past nor will they do so now," she wrote in a second tweet, asking Hamza to "keep your head high".
NAB will present Hamza before an accountability court tomorrow and seek his 15-day physical remand, sources in the bureau told DawnNewsTV.
NAB attempts to arrest Hamza
On April 5, the accountability watchdog had failed in its bid to arrest Hamza — in a case of money laundering and owning assets beyond means — as it faced strong resistance from the Sharif family’s security men as well as PML-N supporters.
On April 6, NAB faced another embarrassing day as its second attempt to arrest the PML-N leader remained unsuccessful. The five-hour siege of PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif’s Model Town residence by the Lahore NAB and police ended after the LHC restrained the bureau from arresting Hamza, granting him protective bail.
On May 28, a bench of the court — comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem — recused itself from hearing the case after Hamza had personally told the bench that he had reservations on the bench since NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal made the bail proceedings controversial by discussing them in a recent interview to the media.
Hamza had said the bureau’s chairman in his interview claimed to have influenced the formation of the bench. He had requested the bench to not proceed with the matter to protect integrity of the courts.
On May 29, LHC Chief Justice Sardar Muhammad Shamim Khan had entrusted proceedings on the bail petition of Hamza to another division bench comprising Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Waheed Khan.