LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Wednesday granted post-arrest bail to former director general of Lahore Development Authority (LDA), Ahad Khan Cheema, in a reference of accumulation of illegal assets filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Cheema’s was the first high profile arrest in Punjab by the NAB before the general elections of 2018. The bureau had arrested him on Feb 21, 2018 when he appeared before its investigation team in an inquiry about Ahsiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme.

Later, the NAB also initiated inquiries regarding the LDA City scam and assets beyond means against him. He has already been granted bail in Ashiana and LDA City cases.

At the outset of Wednesday’s hearing before a two-judge bench, a prosecutor sought time to file a reply on behalf of the bureau against the bail petition of Cheema.

Advocate Amjad Pervez, Cheema’s counsel, opposed the request for the adjournment and pointed out that the petitioner had been behind bars for three years. He said the trial was still pending with testimonies of only 48 out of 210 prosecution witnesses so far.

The prosecutor said the petitioner also sought adjournments in the past.

After hearing the arguments and going through the record, the bench comprising Justice Sardar

Muhammad Sarfraz Dogar and Justice Asjad Javed Ghural granted bail to Cheema and directed him to furnish bail bonds worth Rs1 million.

The NAB had alleged that Cheema owned moveable and immoveable properties in his own and the names of benamidars worth around Rs600m. It accused him of accumulating assets beyond his known sources of income and through corrupt practices as defined under Section 9(A)(V) of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999.

In his bail petition, Cheema had denied the allegations as baseless and without any evidence. He said the trial of the case was still in its initial stage and its conclusion was not possible on the account of the peculiar nature of the charge. He pleaded that his incarceration for an infinite period would tantamount to punishment before trial.

Cheema said being a government servant there was no apprehension of absconding if he was released on bail.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2021

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