LAHORE: A special court (central-I) on Satur­day delayed the indictment of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz in a money laundering case and issued arrest warrants of three proclaimed offenders (POs), including Suleman Sheh­baz, the premier’s other son.

Strict security measures taken outside the court before the appearance of Prime Minister Shehbaz and Chief Minister Hamza caused problems for the litigants and the lawyers. The journalists were also denied entry to the court, however, PML-N deputy secretary general Attaullah Tarar lodged a protest and ensured the access of the media to the courtroom.

At the outset of the hearing, Presiding Judge Ijaz Hassan Awan said his car was also stopped by the security personnel and his staff had to struggle to make their way to the court.

The judge asked the prime minister to take notice of the security issues. PM Shehbaz said he had directed the chief minister to look into the matter.

The judge summoned the police officials responsible for the security arrangements. However, no one appeared before the court initially. “If police would not obey the court’s direction then what to expect from others,” the judge regretted.

Later, SP Civil Lines Raza Safdar Kazmi appeared before the court and undertook that the security measures would be made smooth next time.

The judge asked the SP to name the officials responsible for the mess so the court could order action against them. The SP sought an apology from the court and said there had been a communication gap among the police personnel.

However, the judge proceeded to the hearing of the case after giving a strict warning to the SP.

FIA Special Prosecutor Farooq Bajwa requested the court to first complete the process of declaring absent suspects proclaimed offenders and separate their trial from the present suspects.

He said the trial would be delayed further if the POs joined the proceedings at a later stage.

The judge asked the prosecutor as to why the prosecution did not ask to complete the process against the POs.

Mr Bajwa said he was recently appointed prosecutor in the case.

At this the judge issued warrants for the arrest of Suleman Shehbaz, Malik Maqsood Ahmad and Syed Tahir Naqvi.

The judge allowed Shehbaz and Hamza to go after their attendance was marked.

Resuming his arguments against the challan filed by the FIA, defence counsel Amjad Pervez said during the previous government the investigating officer changed charges in the investigation report.

He said the prosecution did not submit statements of the witnesses recorded under section 164 of CrPC. He said the bank accounts investigated by the FIA did not belong to the people doing sugar business. He said the entire case was based on mala fide.

The counsel said there had been hype about money received in the bank accounts of Maqsood chaprasi(peon), a suspect in the case. He said he would apprise the court on the next hearing about the facts relating to Maqsood.

Advocate Pervez pointed out that the FIR claimed that action was taken on the information of a political personality. However, he said, there was no mention of any political personality in the challan.

He said Shehbaz served as chief minister for 12 years but never claimed salary and made foreign tours on personal pocket.

The counsel also requested the court to confirm the pre-arrest bail of both Shehbaz and Hamza saying their personal presence was not necessary at this stage of the case.

The judge adjourned further hearing till May 28.

The FIA booked Mr Sharif and his sons Hamza Shehbaz and Suleman Shehbaz in November 2020 under sections 419,420,468, 471, 34 and 109 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and read with Section 3/4 of Anti Money Laundering Act. Suleman Shehbaz is in the UK and has been declared an absconder.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2022

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