LAHORE  -   The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday rejected the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) plea objecting the formation of an LHC’s bench that is likely to hear post-arrest bail pleas filed by the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif.

LHC Chief Justice Sardar Mehmood Shamim Khan heard the NAB’s petition against the formation of the bench. The chief justice first reserved the verdict on the admissibility of the petitions. Afterwards, the court announced a short decision rejecting NAB’s petition seeking transfer of the bail pleas of the PML-N leader to another division bench.

In its plea, the NAB pleaded, “A two-judge bench headed by Justice Malik Shehbaz Ahmed is hearing Shehbaz’s petitions that be transferred to a bench headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najfi.” The bench headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najfi had already rejected the bail petitions filed by the PML-N president.

Also during the hearing, the NAB prosecutor told the court that the two-member bench had already rejected Shehbaz Sharif’s bail plea. However, the judge replied that it was not possible anymore. The LHC ruled that the same bench will hear the petition.

Earlier, a two-judge LHC bench headed by Justice Malik Shehzad Ahmed had expressed displeasure over non-submission of reply by the NAB in the bail petitions filed by the PML-N stalwart in the Ashiyana housing scheme and Ramzan Sugar Mills cases. The judge had remarked as the NAB prosecutor had sought adjournment for a week. The court had remarked that NAB sought adjournment on each and every date of hearing, and warned him that no further adjournment would be given next time.

Defence counsel Azam Nazir Tarar had contended that his clinet had been named in the Paragon Housing City scam case in spite of the fact that he had nothing to do with the matter.

He further said, “There are no statements against Mr Shahbaz in the reference, yet he has been on physical remand for 50 days. Even terrorists are not sent on remand for so long period. On the other side, NAB is not even submitting a reply.”

The PML-N president is accused of misuse of authority by unlawfully assuming powers of the board of directors of the Punjab Land Deve­lopment Company (PLDC). He is also charged with awarding a contract to an ineligible proxy company resulting in the failure of the Ashiyana housing scheme. It caused a huge loss to the national exchequer besides depriving 61,000 applicants of residences.

On October 6, NAB had arrested the PML-N president in the Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme case and he has been in judicial remand in jail.

Shehbaz Sharif had moved the Lahore High Court for grant of bail in the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme case. Under the law, a suspect can seek bail soon after being sent on judicial remand by the trial court.

However, the PML-N leader filed the bail petition as many as 47 days after a Lahore-based accountability court sent him on judicial remand in jail.

On December 6, 2018, the court had denied the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) request for extension of physical remand of the accused who had been kept in custody by the NAB for 62 days after his apprehension on Oct 5, 2018.