LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday extended the pre-arrest bail of Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif in the money laundering case, while arguments of his counsel were in progress.

Earlier, resuming his arguments, Shahbaz’s counsel Advocate Amjad Pervez argued that his client had a fundamental right to have access to the document on the basis of which an investigation was being carried out against him.

He said this referring to a report of the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) relied upon by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to initiate the money laundering inquiry against the PML-N president and his family.

The NAB had previously told the court that the report was a secret document and had not been made part of the reference filed before the accountability court against the petitioner.

During his Tuesday’s arguments, Advocate Pervez questioned the authenticity of the FMU report, saying how a person could be tried on the basis of a document which was not even part of the trial against him.

He said the FMU report was issued on a monthly basis, pointing out that no bank reported any suspicious transaction and the NAB also had not nominated any bank official as a suspect in the reference.

He further said that there was a difference between the money laundering and a suspicious transaction.

NAB Special Prosecutor Syed Faisal Raza Bokhari interrupted here and said the high court had already rejected this argument of the petitioner’s counsel in bail matter of Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz.

Advocate Pervez argued that the NAB chairman’s powers were not absolute, and he was duty bound to make his opinion in any matter strictly in the light of the Supreme Court judgements.

He said simply an increase in someone’s assets could not be related to fraud or corruption. He said initiating inquiries on anonymous complaints was a clear violation of the laws.

The counsel pointed out that Mirza Shahzad Akbar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM), and federal ministers had waved the copies of the reference at a press conference two months before the NAB filed it before the trial court.

The bench allowed the counsel to read the transcript of the ministers’ press conference, despite an objection raised by the prosecutor.

Shahbaz also spoke in his own defence with the court’s permission.

The bench extended the bail of Shahbaz till Sept 24 and directed his counsel to conclude the arguments on the next hearing.

A heavy contingent of police was deployed outside and inside the LHC premises to deal with any law order situation in case of arrest of Shahbaz, in case of rejection of the bail petition.

Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umar Sheikh personally inspected the security arrangements and issued guidelines to the police personnel deployed there.

Many PML-N leaders, including Rana Sanaullah Khan and Maryam Aurangzeb and workers attended the bail proceedings.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2020

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