LAHORE: A special judge (central-I) on Saturday summoned Suleman Shahbaz, the younger son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and another as accused to face trial in a money laundering case.

Presiding Judge Bakht Fakhar Bahzad observed how the acquittal applications filed by Suleman and Tahir Naqvi could be entertained when they had not been summoned as accused persons in the case.

Advocate Amjad Parvez, the counsel for the applicants, sought an adjournment to assist the court on this point.

Suleman and Naqvi were present in the court.

Taking a bird’s-eye view of the case record, the judge observed that the investigating officer recorded the statements of 113 witnesses who supported the story of the prosecution.

He noted that the witnesses struck their guns towards Suleman, Naqvi and other suspects facing the trial as perpetrators of the offences.

“I am purposely not mentioning the names of Mian Muhammad Shebaz Sharif and Mian Hamza Shehbaz Sharif and restraining myself from commenting on their cases with regard to their acquittal judgment passed by my predecessor,” the judge observed in his order.

The judge further said it was astonishing that the IO did not even bother to go through incriminating material already collected by the predecessor officers.

The judge concluded that prima facie sufficient incriminating material was available on the record on the basis of which Suleman and Naqvi can be summoned as accused to face the trial.

The judge directed both accused to deposit bail bonds of Rs50,000 each and appear on March 4 to face the trial.

The judge also sought arguments from the applicants’ counsel on the acquittal applications of their clients.

The FIA had previously filed its supplementary report under section 173 under CrPC to the extent of Suleman and Naqvi saying no evidence of money laundering or receiving kickbacks had been found against the suspects.

The judge annexed the supplementary report with the main case.

Suleman recently ended his almost four-year long self-exile and returned to the country after securing an interim protective bail from the Islamabad High Court.

The then judge of the special court in October 2022 allowed the acquittal applications of PM Shehbaz and former chief minister Hamza Shehbaz in the Rs16 billion money laundering case with an observation that there was no probability of conviction even if the prosecution evidence collected during the investigation was recorded.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2023

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