Court allows NAB to close probe into ‘illegal’ allotment of plots by Shehbaz

Updated 29 Oct 2020

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Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif. — AFP/File
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif. — AFP/File

LAHORE: An accountability court on Wednesday allowed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to close investigation into alleged illegal allotment of 12 plots against the Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and another suspect.

The NAB had filed an application before the court, seeking formal approval to close the inquiry due to lack of evidence.

The investigation involved allegations of illegal exemption of plots in Gulshan-i-Ravi Scheme established by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) whereby undue benefit was allegedly given on the basis of bogus applications of ineligible claimants/imposters.

The NAB in its application stated that during the course of investigation every possible effort was made to associate those given exemption but the beneficiaries were untraceable. Further, it said, the LDA record had been burnt and was not available.

It said no evidence came to fore during the investigation to prove that exemptions were granted unlawfully or even influenced by Shehbaz, being the then chief minister of Punjab, or his then secretary Javed Mahmood, who is also a suspect.

The bureau submitted that the LDA did not provide complete record of its officials involved in granting the exemption of the plots in question.

Therefore, it pleaded, an approval for closure of the investigation against the suspects be granted as permissible under the law.

Presiding Judge Jawadul Hassan allowed the NAB application.

Originally the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) had initiated the inquiry against Shehbaz which was later transferred to the NAB in 2000.

JAIL TRIAL: Accountability court judge Jawadul Hassan had sought a report from NAB-Lahore Director General Shahzad Saleem on possibility of a jail trial in a money laundering/illegal assets reference against the family of Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif in view of Covid-19 and hardships faced by the public on roads.

During the previous hearing of the reference on Tuesday, the judge had noticed that the general public faced problems on the roads around the Judicial Complex, while the courtroom also packed to its capacity due to overwhelming presence and production of witnesses.

In his written order of the proceedings, the judge directed the City division superintendent of police (SP) to file a report about the security hazards, difficulty faced by the public, traffic problems and deployment of police personnel outside the complex.

Judge Hassan also sought a report from the NAB-Lahore DG by the next hearing as to whether a jail trial would be fruitful for the early conclusion of the trial for the above reasons and also in the light of the current situation of Covid-19 pandemic.

The judge would resume the hearing in the case on Nov 2.

Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2020