LAHORE: An accountability court on Saturday extended the remand of Shehbaz Sharif, the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, for another 14 days at the request of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) which has been interrogating him over the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme since October 6.
The court, however, rejected NAB’s application for Shehbaz’s remand in Ramzan Sugar Mill case.
On Saturday, Sharif was presented before the court amid heightened security. Heavy contingent of police, Rangers and the anti-riot force was deployed in and outside the court.
The law enforcement agencies (LEAs) had cordoned off the roads leading toward the courts and had blocked them for regular traffic. Education institutes situated near the courts were also closed.
A large number of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) workers and leaders, including Marriyum Aurengzeb, Hamza Shehbaz and Salman Shehbaz, were also present outside the court.
The party workers scuffled with the police when they tried to stop them from entering the court premises. A fight between female activists and policewomen also occurred.
A large number of lawyers supporting the PML-N had also gathered outside the courtroom. They chanted slogans in Shehbaz’s favour. Hamza Shehbaz and Shehbaz Sharif had to intervene to normalise the situation.
The NAB prosecutor while presenting his arguments requested the court to extend Shehbaz’s remand period for another 15 days, adding that they needed to further interrogate the PML-N president.
He contended that Ahad Khan Cheema, an accused, prepared a fraudulent feasibility report for Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme at the behest of Shehbaz, then Punjab chief minister. The report falsely showed the value of 2,000 kanal land at Rs14 billion, whereas the actual value was Rs23 billion as verified by the independent experts.
Both the accused planned to get an undue underhand benefit of Rs9 billion, the NAB prosecutor alleged.
Seeking extension in the remand period, he argued that the NAB investigation team could not investigate Shehbaz during his previous remand as he remained busy in the National Assembly activities.
He said the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) had reported many suspicious transactions into bank accounts of Shehbaz and his sons – Salman and Hamza. NAB needed to investigate these transactions as well as their other business concerns, he added.
The prosecutor said an accused arrested in connection with Ramzan Sugar Mill case had revealed that on the CM office’s directive, a drain was built in Chiniot district primarily for the use of Ramzan Sugar Mills at a cost of Rs200 million.
“The government money was spent for the benefit of personal business,” he asserted.
An investigation officer also alleged that Shehbaz threatened him during the probe. Shehbaz denied the allegations.
Shehbaz’s counsel opposed the NAB request for the extension. He quoted various judgments to support his arguments and alleged that NAB Lahore DG Saleem Shahzad was appearing on different TV channels and had become a party to the case.
“NAB has failed to bring forth any solid proof against my client and there is no point in extending the remand. Shehbaz has been appearing before NAB since June 2018 and is fully cooperating with the investigators,” he added.
He also opposed a NAB request for the PML-N president’s remand in Ramzan Sugar Mill case, stating that it had been filed on false grounds. “A person arrested in one case is also considered arrested in other cases according to the law,” he said.
After hearing arguments from both sides, the court reserved the judgment. Later, the judge extended Shehbaz’s remand period for 14 days till November 24 in the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme scam. However, he rejected the NAB application in Ramzan Sugar Mill case.