An accountability court in Lahore on Friday granted the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) 12-day physical remand of Jang Group's Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakilur Rahman in a property case.
The court had originally granted NAB an 11-day physical remand but extended it by a day when Rahman's counsel Aitizaz Ahsan said that he would not be available for proceedings on March 24.
Rahman was arrested by the anti-corruption watchdog yesterday when he appeared before NAB in a 34-year-old case related to 54-kanal land he allegedly acquired “illegally” in the tenure of then-chief minister of Punjab Nawaz Sharif.
During the hearing today, Ahsan vehemently opposed NAB's request for physical remand, saying that NAB's "attitude towards Shakilur Rahman is based on maliciousness".
Ahsan termed his client's arrest a day earlier as "illegal", arguing that Rahman was cooperating with the accountability watchdog.
"Mir Shakilur Rahman is not running anywhere but NAB did not hear his stance and arrested him," Ahsan said. "[PML-N's] Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was arrested by NAB in the same manner.
"Yesterday, Rahman had brought the answers of questions asked by NAB. He was arrested illegally," the defence lawyer declared, adding that Rahman was taken into custody because he "criticises, which is his right".
"How did the NAB chairman issue the arrest warrants without even looking at Mir Shakilur Rahman's case file?" Ahsan questioned.
The NAB prosecutor countered Ahsan's arguments by insisting that Rahman was arrested "after fulfilling legal requirements".
After his appearance before the NAB team in Lahore last week, Rahman had said he had bought the land in question from a private party and no illegality had been committed in this respect.
However, according to NAB, Rahman had been arrested in connection with “alleged illegal exemption of 54 plots (each measuring one kanal) in H-block of Jauhar Town phase-II allotted to him being the holder of general power of attorney on behalf of Hidayat Ali and Hikmat Ali by the then Punjab chief minister (Nawaz Sharif in 1986) in violation of the relevant laws/rules”.
Yesterday, Rahman had appeared before a joint investigation team of NAB at its Lahore headquarters at Thokar Niaz Beg and answered its queries for more than two hours.
“As Rahman could not satisfy the NAB team regarding its queries, an arrest warrant was served on him and he was detained in the bureau’s lockup,” an official source had told Dawn.
In a statement regarding the arrest, the Jang group said: “In the past 18 months, NAB has sent our reporters, producers and editors, directly and indirectly, over a dozen notices, threatening a shutdown of our channels (via Pemra) due to our reporting and our programmes about NAB. In its defence, NAB has in writing said it is a constitutionally protected institution that cannot be criticised. NAB also has through several means tried to persuade us to go slow, to stop stories and to do others in its favour at the expense of the full truth. We will not stop any reporter, producer or anchor from any story that is on merit and at the same time will try to include NAB’s version as well."
NAB rejected the allegations levelled by Jang Group and urged the media to avoid broadcasting and publishing news items without getting the version of its spokesman in light of the Supreme Court verdict in the Arshad Sharif case.