Whether they used or abused the political muscle, PML-N activists managed to prevent Hamza Shehbaz’s arrest by NAB in cases concerning money laundering and owning assets beyond known sources of income. Twice was a NAB team’s attempt to take the Punjab Assembly’s opposition leader away from his Lahore residence thwarted by agitated PML-N activists and the security guards at the residence. Having returned empty-handed on Friday after trying, in vain, to enter Hamza’s residence for about an hour, the NAB team again raided the place on Saturday — but with no different result. What eventually helped Hamza avoid the arrest after a five-hour-long stand-off between the NAB team and the unrelenting PML-N activists was an order from the Lahore High Court chief justice barring the accountability watchdog from arresting the PML-N leader.
Both NAB and the PML-N had their own set of legal arguments to defend their respective actions. While Hazma did all what he could to defy the arrest on the basis of a Lahore High Court order which says that he needed to be informed 10 days prior to the arrest, the NAB team insisted on the arrest arguing that in line with a recent Supreme Court ruling it was no longer required to intimate any accused person about his arrest in case it possesses irrefutable evidence. Only a week back, a three-member bench of the top court, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, had ruled in favour of a NAB appeal that challenged a Lahore High Court decision which had made it necessary for the bureau to intimate the accused persons before their arrest. The situation seems confusing, legally speaking.
NAB’s powers of arrest have been in question for quite a while now. Under the NAB law, the bureau is vested with authority to arrest a suspect for 90 days without the provision of bail, even during the inquiry stage, under an internal mechanism where the chairman’s judgment is final. Lately experts have been calling for clipping what they term such unfettered powers.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2019.
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