LAHORE - The National Accountability Bureau on Saturday surrendered before the orders of the Lahore High Court and left the residence of Opposition Leader in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif without arresting his son Hamza Shehbaz Sharif after an hours-long standoff.

Saturday’s raid was the second attempt in 24 hours to arrest the PML-N leader, who is accused of money-laundering and having assets beyond means.

Earlier on Friday, a NAB team conducted a surprise raid at the same house to arrest Hamza, but returned after a scuffle with the security guards of the Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly.

The high-drama that started in the morning the other day ended outside the house (96-H Model Town) yesterday afternoon when a top judge issued a short order and granted interim bail to Hamza until Monday.

Earlier in the day on Saturday, NAB also filed a petition before an accountability court, seeking permission to enter the house to arrest Hamza. But the petition was dismissed. PML-N lawyer Atta Tarrar told reporters outside the court that the accountability court had “dismissed” the petition and refused to give NAB and police permission to raid the house.

 

Later a 10-member team of the Bureau reached Model Town at 10:30am to arrest Hamza and remained there until 4:30pm.

The officials of the anti-graft body were seen busy on their mobile phones throughout that time as dozens of chanting PML-N activists staged a protest sit-in at the main gate to stop officials from entering the house.

A NAB official told The Nation, “Rangers personnel and police were put on standby to fend off any law and order situation. However, the NAB team was immediately called back after the Lahore High Court granted bail to the accused.”

According to the written court orders, Hamza was given interim protective bail so he could approach the concerned bench for hearing of a bail plea that was filed on April 4.

Senior lawyer Amjad Pervez appeared in court on Hamza’s behalf requesting for an interim bail and argued that if the petitioner is arrested, he will lose his constitutional right to appear before the court in order to secure bail.

LHC Chief Justice Sardar Shamim Ahmed summoned record of the interim bail appeal and then barred NAB from arresting Hamza.

Hamza’s speech

As the NAB team left the house, Hamza Shehbaz appeared on the terrace and addressed party workers on a loudspeaker. He told them that LHC had stopped NAB from arresting him since he was cooperating with the investigators.

The PML-N leader also thanked his supporters for standing before NAB's team like an “impenetrable wall” as if they were protecting their own house. “These (people) are not (just) PML-N workers but my family,” he said to cheering crowd.

Hamza then strongly criticised the government saying that the prime minister should “stop lying and acting out of jealousy and bias.”

In the same breath, he proposed the premier to devise a plan in consultation with the opposition parties to pull the country out of financial crisis.

“Pakistan's economy is drowning (and) we don't have money for debt servicing.... I call upon them (government) to draw a roadmap for a charter of economy and provide relief to the poor.”

 

 

NAB press statement

A few hours before the LHC orders, the NAB issued a statement, warning the opposition leader to cooperate with the state institution and offer his arrest.

NAB spokesman claimed that Hamza’s arrest warrants were issued according to the law and all accused persons are equal before the law. He said their action had nothing to do with politics.

“It has been decided to call Rangers to implement arrest warrants due to the prevailing security situation,” he said in the press statement.

The spokesman claimed that the PML-N workers and security guards tried to interfere into the state institution’s affairs on behalf of their leaders.

Earlier, the National Accountability Bureau had summoned the Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly to appear in person on Friday at 10am at its Lahore office but Hamza did not show up.

The anti-graft authority then conducted the raid at his house to arrest him and produce before a joint investigation team probing a case of alleged money laundering and assets disproportionate to known source of income.

On the other hand, the PML-N declared the raid illegal as it was carried out without intimation and issuance of arrest warrants.

The Friday’s raid came just a day after the Bureau arrested two alleged “front men” of Hamza on the charges of laundering billions of rupees. NAB secured physical remand of Qasim Qayyum and Fazal Dad Abbasi until April 19 from an accountability court the next day, Friday.