An accountability court in Lahore on Wednesday granted the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) physical remand of Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz for 15 days till June 26.
Hamza, who was arrested a day earlier, was remanded in the money laundering/assets beyond means and the Ramzan Sugar Mills cases.
A NAB team earlier brought Hamza to the court amid tight security. NAB special prosecutor Waris Ali Janjua had said the accountability bureau would present its arguments for 15-day physical remand of Hamza before admin Judge Jawad ul Hassan.
Hamza's lawyers Advocate Amjad Pervez and Advocate Salman Aslam Butt were present on his behalf.
On Tuesday, NAB had arrested the PML-N leader after the Lahore High Court dismissed as withdrawn his bail petitions in two inquiries — pertaining to money laundering/assets beyond means and the Ramzan Sugar Mills. He was arrested in the case regarding money laundering/assets beyond means. During the court proceedings today, NAB's prosecutor informed the court that they had included the Ramzan Sugar Mills case in his arrest and requested physical remand in the case.
At the outset of the hearing, the NAB prosecutor informed the court that Hamza had been arrested yesterday.
The judge asked where the suspect was and whether he was in the court to which his lawyer responded that Hamza was present in the courtroom.
"Was Hamza Shahbaz informed about the reasons for his arrest?" the judge asked, to which the NAB lawyer responded in the affirmative.
The bureaus investigating officer said that suspicious transactions had been made from Hamza's bank account.
He said that in 2003, Hamza's assets were worth Rs22.5 million, adding that from 2005-2007, the PML-N leader had not stated his assets. In 2009, his assets rose to Rs210 million, as per the investigating officer.
According to a NAB report regarding the grounds for his arrest, Hamza's assets increased beyond his known means of income from 2003 till 2017. He is accused of causing a loss of over Rs210 million to the national treasury in the Ramzan Sugar Mills case. As per the report, Hamza had purchased many commercial and residential properties from 2012 to 2015.
NAB's investigating officer told the court that whenever the accountability bureau questioned Hamza, he said he would answer in the court.
He said that as a result of nine call-up notices, Hamza appeared before NAB five times.
While requesting 15-day physical remand, the investigating officer said that they needed to investigate where the PML-N leader had acquired Rs180 million from.
NAB's prosecutor said that Hamza had not declared the sources of his income to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
The PML-N leader's counsel said that his client had answered all questions that NAB had asked him, adding that Hamza had also submitted a written reply to a call-up notice.
"Hamza Shahbaz Sharif has declared all his assets," said the lawyer.
Advocated Pervez said that as per NAB laws, a suspect cannot be arrested without providing them with the reasons and evidence for their arrest.
He said that Hamza was the opposition leader of the largest province in Pakistan and said that his fundamental rights were being violated.
"Money laundering is a joke that NAB has told and people have started thinking it is the truth," he said.
Advocate Pervez said that Hamza and his family had been involved in business prior to joining politics.
"NAB cannot even take action on the basis of the anti-money laundering act," he said, adding that from 2005 to 2008, neither Hamza nor any of his family member had been a public office holder.
He said that the law on the basis of which, Hamza's remand was being requested, could not be applied to his client.
"Only political cases have been made against Hamza Shahbaz," he said, adding that partaking in the sale and business of property was the fundamental right of every Pakistani.
The PML-N leader's counsel said that physical remand of Hamza should not be granted, adding that he should be sent on judicial remand.
"All records are already with NAB, therefore, physical remand is not required," he said.
NAB's prosecutor told the court that on the instructions of the Lahore High Court, Hamza had been provided with all documents regarding the inquiry and investigation.
He said that Hamza had not given complete answers to questions asked in the call-up notices that were sent to him.
The NAB prosecutor added that the court had approved the physical remand of co-accused suspects in the same case.
Strict security arrangements
Ahead of the provincial opposition leader's appearance before the accountability court, strict security arrangements were made.
PML-N workers clashed with police outside the court premises. An altercation took place between PML-N MPA Rukhsana Kausar and a female police officer regarding entry into the courtroom. The MPA raised her hand on the police officer who slapped the MPA. Police said that they would not let anyone take the law into their own hands, while Kausar said that the police were making allegations and no one had slapped [the police officer].
Ahead of the PML-N leader's appearance police had devised a strategy.
Containers were placed outside the civil secretariat where party workers were to be restricted till. All routes to enter and exit the accountability court were sealed.
Police had said that no PML-N worker would have permission to enter the judicial complex — a large contingent of police were placed both inside and outside the premises. The entry of non-essential personnel towards the accountability court was also restricted.
NAB on Tuesday arrested Hamza after the Lahore High Court dismissed as withdrawn his bail petitions in two inquiries — pertaining to money laundering/assets beyond means and the Ramzan Sugar Mills.
Scores of PML-N-affiliated lawyers and political workers were present inside and outside the courtroom.
Prior to his arrest, Hamza had briefly responded to reporters in the courtroom, saying: "The unholy alliance of NAB and Niazi [Prime Minister Imran Khan] stands exposed today." He said his lawyers decided to withdraw the bail petitions as they had not been provided with the documents on the basis of which NAB initiated inquiries against him.
Party workers had chanted slogans and trailed the bureau’s vehicle that carried Hamza; they held a protest at GPO Chowk on the Mall Road too, and temporarily disturbed the flow of traffic on Mall Road, and burnt tyres. However, they had dispersed peacefully after an hour or so.
Meanwhile, a first information report (FIR) was registered against PML-N workers at Old Anarkali police station for assaulting police personnel.
Additional reporting by Adnan Shaikh