LAHORE: Leader of opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif is likely to be out of jail on Thursday (today) as his release order is expected to be issued after the Lahore High Court (LHC) granted him bail on Wednesday in a money laundering reference filed against him and his family by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Mr Shehbaz was sent to jail on judicial remand on Oct 20, 2020 after remaining in NAB’s custody for 23 days since his arrest on Sept 28, 2020 in the money laundering reference.
A two-judge LHC bench, headed by Justice Sardar Mohammad Sarfraz Dogar and also comprising Asjad Javed Ghural, allowed the bail petition after hearing final arguments of NAB’s Special Prosecutor Syed Faisal Raza Bokhari.
The bench observed that the trial proceedings, as per a report filed by an accountability court before the Supreme Court, would take at least one year to be concluded. It also observed that since transfer of its presiding judge, the trial court had been awaiting a new presiding judge.
Defence lawyer says FBR found nothing wrong in petitioner’s accounts
The defence counsel, Azam Nazir Tarar, argued that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had already held an audit of the petitioner’s assets and accounts but found nothing wrong in them.
To an argument of the prosecutor about unexplained telegraphic transfers in the names of Mr Shehbaz’s family members, the bench questioned the inquiry by the NAB instead of the FBR. “Is not it the job of the FBR to inspect sources of income of a person?” asked the bench.
Prosecutor Bokhari argued that the declared assets of Mr Shehbaz’s family before 1990 had a worth of Rs10.65 million. He said the worth of the assets owned by the petitioner’s family swelled to over Rs7 billion in 2018.
He said Shehbaz’s wife Nusrat, sons, daughters and benamidars received huge amounts in their accounts through TTs. However, the bench asked the prosecutor to come up with something exclusive about the accused persons.
The prosecutor said all the benamidars were related to Shehbaz.
After hearing the arguments, the bench rose and reassembled after a few minutes to announce a short order allowing the petition.
“For the reasons to be recorded later, this petition is allowed and the petitioner namely Mian Mohammad Shehbaz Sharif is admitted to post-arrest bail,” reads the short order. However, he was directed to furnish bail bonds in sum of Rs5 million with two sureties each in the like amount.
PML-N Punjab President Rana Sanaullah Khan, its information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb and other leaders were present in the court.
Mr Shehbaz was first granted interim pre-arrest bail last year on June 3 in the case. The pre-arrest were extended till the last week of Sept when the court finally refused to grant further extension, leading to his arrest by NAB on Sept 28 and subsequent judicial custody on Oct 20.
In this reference, six of the 10 indicted suspects have already been released on bail including Shehbaz’s son and Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz, Mushtaq Cheeni, Shahid Rafiq, Aftab Mahmood, Fazal Dad Abbasi and Shoaib Qamar.
Shehbaz’s son Suleman, daughter Rabia Imran and son-in-law Haroon Yousaf have been declared absconders in the reference by the trial court.
Previously, Shehbaz was also arrested by NAB on Oct 5, 2018 in Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme and later in Ramzan Sugar Mills case. The LHC had released him on bail in both cases on Feb 17, 2019.
Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2021