LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Thursday reserved judgement on post-arrest bail petition of PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) case after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) concluded its arguments.

After Additional Prosecutor General Jahanzeb Bharwana closed his arguments, a division bench comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem reserved the verdict to be announced on Friday (today).

Later in the evening, the LHC media cell issued a press release saying the judgment would be announced on Monday (Nov 4).

In his lengthy arguments, Mr Bharwana challenged the humanitarian ground taken by Ms Nawaz for the relief of bail to look after her ailing father in hospital. He said the law did not have any such provision. Moreover, he said, there were no extraordinary circumstances or severe hardship in the case as per the guidelines described by the Supreme Court for the grant of bail.

He also questioned another argument by the petitioner’s counsel that Ms Nawaz being a woman needed to be treated with leniency.

The prosecutor referred to a judgment wherein pre-arrest bail was denied to PPP leader Faryal Talpur. He said the request of the petitioner for bail on humanitarian ground was not maintainable. He pointed out that the petitioner had been allowed to stay with her father in hospital.

Challenging the bail on merits, the prosecutor argued that the case of the CSM had not been the subject matter of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the SC in Panama Papers. Therefore, he said, the argument of double jeopardy made by the petitioner was not correct. He also read decision of the apex court in the Panama Papers case.

To a court’s query, Mr Bharwana said the inquiry against the petitioner in the CSM was initiated after a January 2018 Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) received from the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU). However, the bench after going through the STR observed that it was unable to find a direct mention of the petitioner in the report.

The prosecutor said the CSM was clearly mentioned in the STR while petitioner’s father Nawaz Sharif was the principal accused in it. He said the petitioner had been a director in the CSM and was a beneficiary of its funds being daughter of Mr Sharif.

Mr Bharwana said the petitioner failed to explain a heavy amount of 4.8 million US dollars received from three UAE nationals including Naseer Hussain Lootah.

At this, petitioner’s counsel Amjad Pervez interrupted and said the amount in question was not transferred to her client but to Yousaf Abbas and Abdul Aziz Abbas, the directors of the mills.

The prosecutor said Yousaf transferred Rs70 million to the petitioner from the amount received from the UAE. He said the shares of the petitioner in the mills swelled from four to 47pc from 2005 to 2009 with unexplained sources of income.

Referring to a statement of prosecution witness Mr Lootah, Justice Najafi observed that the foreign national said the money sent to Pakistan was an investment in real estate business.

“How can you call this transaction suspicious or relate this to corruption?” the judge asked the prosecutor.

The prosecutor said the petitioner was supposed to justify the suspicious transactions.

However, Justice Najafi observed that initially the burden to prove the allegation always lied upon the prosecution.

Answering another question, the prosecutor said there was no inquiry by the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) into the suspicious transactions of the sugar mills’ accounts. He added that the scope of the jurisdiction of the SECP was limited to enforcement of its regulations only as its law did not cover investigation into corrupt practices.

“Without having a definite finding can we assume that the assets of the petitioner were accumulated through crime proceeds?” Justice Najafi posed another question to the prosecutor.

The prosecutor, however, said the petitioner had failed to explain the transactions and her assets had been found beyond known source of income. Before the bench rose, the prosecutor also submitted copies of the case law and argued that the petition was not maintainable.

Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2019