Lahore   -  An accountability court here on Saturday rejected the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)’s request for physical remand of Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif who was arrested yesterday in the Ramazan Sugar Mills case too.

However, in Ashiana Housing scheme case, the court approved 14-day extension in the physical remand of Shehbaz, who is also president of PML-N and former Punjab chief minister, as requested by the NAB prosecutor.

He had been arrested yesterday (November 10) in the Ramazan Sugar Mills case, NAB prosecutor told Special Judge Accountability Court Najamul Hasan Bukhari. The prosecutor also informed the court that Sharif had been nominated and under arrest in the case as well, and demanded his physical remand also in that case.

Opposing the request, defence counsel argued that the NAB’s request for his client’s remand in sugar mills case was on false grounds. He said “The law states that a man who has been arrested in one case will be considered arrested in other cases as well.” In reply, the prosecutor said “The new case is different and we have evidence in the ongoing case.”

Demanding 15-day extension to Sharif’s remand, NAB prosecutor Waris Ali Janjua argued that the accountability watchdog was unable to hold an inquiry due to Sharif’s political activities especially in the National Assembly. The NAB had last month secured a transit remand of Shehbaz who was later taken to Islamabad so as to attend the NA session.

On the other side, defence counsel Amjad Pervaiz vehemently opposed the NAB demand for extension to his physical remand. He added NAB had summoned Shehbaz for the first time in June 2018. He had appeared before it whenever he was summoned and cooperated with it in the investigations, he said. However, he added, NAB had not so far been able to provide any solid evidence against him in the Ashiana Housing Scheme therefore the NAB appeal was not in accordance with the law.

The counsel further argued that the latest request of the NAB for extension to his remand was on fake grounds. He said the court was not bound to automatically grant a 90-day remand of an accused.

Besides his counsel, Shehbaz himself turned down the NAB’s claim and said that he could say under oath that they (NAB officials) had been interrogating him even when his production orders were issued.

Moreover, the NAB prosecutor told the court that the feasibility report of the housing scheme was prepared by Ahad Cheema, the former director general of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), who is also accused in the case. The court asked the prosecutor, “Will you proceed further from the feasibility report”?

In response to NAB’s argument, the defence counsel said Sharif had nothing to do with any report prepared by the LDA or anyone else. He added NAB could interrogate Sharif in jail. He further said they (NAB) could send him a questionnaire in sub-jail and there was no need for a physical remand.

The counsel also said NAB Lahore Director General Saleem Shahzad had become a party in the case against Shehbaz and giving interviews in different talk shows. He said Shahzad had issued statements on sub-judice matters on multiple TV channels. The court asked “Haven’t you recorded your protest on the highest forum (National Assembly)?” referring to a privilege motion tabled by the opposition in the National Assembly a day earlier on the matter. However, the defence counsel said, “My forum is this court and I will present my point of view here.”

According to the NAB official, Sharif approved construction of a bridge linking their Ramazan Sugar Mills by spending funds from the national exchequer in Chiniot. He said Hamza Shehbaz and his brother in the capacity of directors (Ramzan Sugar Mills) got constructed a bridge linking to their mills out of the public money in Chiniot. It is reported that an amount of Rs200 million was approved by then chief minister Shehbaz Sharif for construction of the bridge. The NAB team had also quizzed Hamza about the case as well.

The NAB officer also told the court that Shehbaz had threatened him during the investigation, however, the former Punjab chief minister denied the claim.

After listening to the arguments of both the parties, the court first reserved its verdict and then extended the remand for 14 days in Ashiana scandal case but rejected the NAB’s request for granting his remand in Ramazan Sugar Mills case.

An accountability court on October 29 granted Sharif a three-day transit remand to attend National Assembly sessions. He was then flown to Islamabad and his Ministers’ Enclave residence was declared sub-jail.

Afterwards, an Islamabad-based accountability court on October 31 extended his transit remand till November 6 and then till November 10. As his transit remand ends yesterday, he was presented before the accountability court in Lahore. Shehbaz will now be presented before an accountability court on November 24.

As per NAB official, the PLDC awarded Ashiana contract to the lowest bidder namely M/s Ch A Latif and Sons on 24-01-2013. The contract was awarded after completion of open bidding process and after due approval of the Board of Directors of PLDC, which after entering into the contract agreement issued mobilisation advance of Rs75 million to said contractor, he said.

Shehbaz is accused of illegally and unlawfully, forming an inquiry committee headed by then finance secretary Tariq Bajwa to review the whole tendering process. He is also accused of unlawfully assuming the powers of Board of Directors of PLDC and misusing his authority. He acted with connivance of Fawad Hassan Fawad, the then secretary (implementation) to Punjab CM, as per the NAB.

The Conpro Services (Pvt) Limited owner, who filed the complaint, had bribed Fawad Hassan in millions of rupees during the same period - which requires further probe. He further alleged that Shehbaz unlawfully directed PLDC to entrust the Ashiana project to LDA as PLDC was established for housing projects and its decisions were to be taken by its BoD. The ex-CM not only negated the objective of PLDC’s creation but also caused huge loss to the national exchequer.

Heavy contingents of police were deployed inside and outside the accountability court before Sharif’s arrival. A large number of PML-N workers had gathered outside the court ahead of Sharif’s appearance and security been increased around the premises during the hearing.

 

NAB arrests Shehbaz in sugar mills case too

 

 

 

Shahzad Ahmad