LAHORE: An accountability court on Saturday set March 27 as the date for formally framing charges against Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and Leader of the Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz in the Ramzan Sugar Mills corruption reference.
The court will also record statements of additional witnesses against Shehbaz in the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme reference on the same date.
Shehbaz and son Hamza attended the hearing of the two corruption references which was held in the accountability court located in the judicial complex. The case was heard by duty judge Jawadul Hassan due to the non-availability of accountability court judge Najamul Hassan.
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The two Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders could not be indicted on Saturday. The court issued notices to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) – which has filed the references – to provide related documents to indict the two accused. It also issued bailable arrest warrants of two others, Shahid Mehmood and Sadiq, against surety bonds of Rs100,000 each for not appearing in the court.
During the hearing, Shehbaz's lawyer Amjad Pervez submitted a request under Section 265-C of CrPC requesting copies of the statements of the two witnesses, Abdul Sattar and Javed, one USB and copies of certain documents. The court set March 27 as the date to record the statements of three witnesses in the reference and adjourned the hearing.
After the court's proceedings, PML-N President Shehbaz accused the government of adopting a non-serious attitude towards the illness of his brother and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan would be responsible if anything were to happen to Nawaz.
“The government is acting irresponsibly with someone who was elected a premier on three different occasions,” he said. He informed that five years ago his brother underwent a complex and serious operation. Nawaz also had an open heart surgery a year and a half ago, he said, adding that his brother was also suffering from diabetes, blood pressure and heart-related issues.
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On the ongoing issue of increase in the salaries and privileges of Punjab’s chief minister, ministers and members of assembly, he said that he did not avail any such allowances during his time in power. “I did not use the government residence nor the official car, and even paid for foreign trips from my own pocket,” he said.
Shehbaz said that when he went abroad for treatment, he paid for the bills from his own pocket and never misused the resources at his disposal.
Hamza also strongly objected to the increase in salaries while addressing the media on the occasion. He lambasted the government over its decision, he said the government does not have money to pay electricity and gas dues but was raising the salaries. He said that the bill was approved despite strong opposition from his party, pointing the finger at the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
Due to the politically charged atmosphere of the trial, strict security arrangements were put in place outside the court and on its premises. All routes to the judicial complex were sealed with containers, barbed wires and obstacles, while traffic was diverted to alternate routes.
Apart from a heavy contingent of police, anti-riot police were also posted around the surroundings of the judicial complex. A large number of lady police officers were also on duty.
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Model Town case
The provincial home department granted permission to the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the Model Town tragedy to record the statement of former premier Nawaz Sharif on Monday.
The JIT members, led by AD Khwaja, will record the statements of the former PM at the Kot Lakhpat jail on Monday, where the former premier is serving a seven-year prison sentence.
The investigation team has already recorded the statements of various Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders in the case.
The JIT was formed by the Supreme Court to unearth the facts that led to the killing of 14 supporters of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek in a police action in Lahore in June 2014.