The Islamabad High Court on Thursday barred the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from arresting Suleman Shehbaz, the son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who is expected to return to Pakistan this week after four years of self-exile in London.

Suleman has been in London with his family since 2018, when the National Accountability Bureau registered multiple cases against him ahead of the general election.

He had filed a plea before the IHC a day ago, seeking protective bail that would enable him to surrender before a trial court.

The court took up the plea for hearing today. Suleman’s counsel Amjad Pervez appeared before the court.

During the proceedings, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq issued directives for the applicant, asking him to surrender before the court by Dec 13 and barred the FIA from arresting him until then.

Justice Farooq said it was necessary for an applicant to be present in the court while seeking protective bail.

Pervez told the court that his client was returning to Islamabad via Saudi Arabia on Sunday (Dec 11). “He wants to appear before the relevant authorities,” he added.

The counsel said the court had been granting similar protective bails in the past.

Following the arguments, the court approved the protective bail and directed him to appear before it by Dec 13.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Attaullah Tarar responded to a comment made by PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry on the court’s decision, saying it was a blessing from Almighty Allah.

Earlier, Fawad made a sarcastic comment on the verdict. “Thankfully, the courts in the country are independent and justice prevails, otherwise all hope was lost,” he tweeted.

In response, Tarar also took a dig at former accountability czar Shahzad Akbar, asking “where has he been who made all these cases?”

The case

The FIA had booked Shehbaz and his sons Hamza and Suleman in November 2020 under sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 and 109 of Prevention of Corruption Act and r/w 3/4 of Anti Money Laundering Act.

Arrest warrants had been issued for Suleman. However, in its report submitted to the court, the FIA had stated that the warrants could not be executed since Suleman was not present at his address and had gone abroad.

A trial court had also declared him a proclaimed offender, along with another suspect in a Rs16 billion money laundering case, in July this year.

According to the FIA report, the investigation team “detected 28 benami accounts of the Shehbaz family through which money laundering of Rs16.3bn was committed from 2008-18. The FIA examined a money trail of 17,000 credit transactions.”

The report added that the amount was kept in “hidden accounts” and “given to Shehbaz in a personal capacity”.

In a statement reported by Dawn, Suleman said he was forced to leave Pakistan for the sake of his safety after “fake and manipulated cases” were registered against him and his family in order to “facilitate a new political order”.

“These cases were the worst example of political witch-hunt and political victimisation. There was no truth and not a scintilla of evidence of corruption in the cases cooked up by the National Accountability Bureau under the former NAB chairman Javed Iqbal and the Assets Recovery Unit,” he said.

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