LAHORE: In an anticipated decision, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has formally announced approaching the Supreme Court against the post-arrest bail granted to Leader to Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif in a money laundering reference by the Lahore High Court, which also finds the investigation by the anti-corruption watchdog unsatisfactory.

There has been a discreet criticism by the government on the bail granted to Shehbaz and it failed to hide its desperation when the court later allowed him to visit abroad with federal ministers openly questioning the decision.

However, Shehbaz could not fly to the United Kingdom as the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) immigration officials told him at the Lahore airport that his name was on another stop list – Provisional National Identification List (PNIL). The court allowed him to go abroad for medical treatment from May 8 to July 3.

Opp leader likely to file contempt plea for stopping him from flying to London

The opposition leader is likely to move the LHC for contempt proceedings against the government authorities for, what he said, a clear defiance of the court’s order.

Though the full bench in its bail-granting order pointed out various deficiencies on part of the NAB, a statement issued by the anti-corruption watchdog on Tuesday said the prosecution team has initiated to prepare an appeal, as per law, keeping in view the over-sighted or ignored facts by the three-member bench being presented in the reference against Shahbaz before the trial court. It said an appeal would soon be filed before the apex court.

About the allegations of amassing benami properties against Shehbaz, the full bench in its 28-page judgment observed that no investigation was conducted by the NAB to dig out the source of income of the accused.

At one point, the bench observed, “We are afraid that half-hearted attempt by the NAB will not absolve them from their responsibility to prove the case against the petitioner (Shehbaz) as the presumption of innocence always lies in favour of the accused person and the onus shifts only after initial discharge of burden by the prosecution.”

“Interestingly, the NAB has categorically admitted before us that petitioner is not alleged to have received any kickbacks or any such ill-gotten money in return to a favour extended to someone to build up the assets in the name of his family,” the bench wrote in the judgment.

The judgment says at times, the judges are also guided and supported by the principles of morality but when it comes to the question of liberty of an individual, judges are bound to take into account basic principles under which the bail can be granted or refused.

“We cannot, however, keep our eyes closed of the principles for the grant of post-arrest bail which is whether the case of the petitioner calls for further inquiry into his guilt,” rules the bench headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi.

The NAB, in its Tuesday’s statement, reiterates that the bureau is a national institution which performs its duties under lawful parameters purely in good faith and interest of the nation and the country, as well, by setting aside any kind of pressure and pressings.

Talking to Dawn, PML-N Senator Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar, a senior member of Shehbaz’s legal team, questioned the ‘haste’ shown by the NAB by opening its offices during Eid holidays only to release a statement to announce appealing the bail order.

He wondered the NAB had not so far filed appeals against the bails granted to provincial ministers Abdul Aleem Khan and Sibtain Khan in the references since 2019.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021

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