A referee bench of the Lahore High Court on Thursday ruled in favour of granting bail to PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, disagreeing with Justice Asjad Javed Ghural’s dissenting note to the decision of Justice Sardar Muhammad Sarfraz Dogar.
The three-judge bench, headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and also comprising Justice Aalia Neelum and Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi, gave a unanimous verdict.
Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar, the lawyer for the opposition leader in the National Assembly, told the media that his client was likely to be released in Friday (today) after the submission of surety.
PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz tweeted that her uncle had finally been given justice.
"Every time Shehbaz Sharif sahib was arrested, his only crime was loyalty to Nawaz Sharif," she added.
“If you want to challenge Shehbaz, do it in his service to the public. [Such] services cannot be challenged through false cases.”
Earlier, the former Punjab chief minister's lawyers Tarar and Amjad Pervez completed their arguments in the court.
As the proceedings commenced, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) special prosecutor Faisal Raza Bukhari informed the court that there was an allegation of the transfer of Rs533 million against Shehbaz through TTs (telegraphic transfer).
He declared his assets as Rs2.1 million in 1990, which reached Rs41 million in 1998, the prosecutor argued.
"Several properties are in the name of Shehbaz Sharif’s wife Tehmina Durrani that are under his control," the NAB prosecutor further claimed. He further said that about "13 industrial units and benami companies are in the name of Shehbaz and his relatives".
Justice Najafi asked whether or not Shehbaz or his relatives were shareholders in these companies.
"The relatives were also the shareholders in the companies," the NAB prosecutor told the judges.
"Were these companies established in 2005?"
To this, the NAB prosecutor replied that these companies were set up at different points of time after 2005.
The prosecutor added that eight major companies had also been established between 2008 and 2018. The assets of Rs299 million and 26 TTs had been transferred to Nusrat Shehbaz.
To this, Shehbaz's counsel Amjad Pervez argued that this case was a hearing related to his client.
Suleman Shehbaz, the son of the accused, received TTs valuing Rs1 billion and Rs60 million, the NAB prosecutor contended.
Justice Najafi asked what was Suleman’s age when he received his first TT? The NAB prosecutor replied that he was 23 years old at the time.
On the court’s query, the NAB prosecutor said the money directly was not transferred to Shehbaz's accounts but those of his relatives, who then gave him the money when he needed it.
"What does your investigation say about the sources of the TTs," the presiding judge asked.
The NAB prosecutor told him that the people who had sent the TTs told the anti-graft body that they had never gone abroad.
“The TTs were sent from the UAE and England," the prosecutor added.
The bench inquired if NAB had investigated the matter of any kickbacks that were received. "If yes then please tell its resources and wherefrom these were received," Justice Najafi asked.
Shehbaz's counsel replied that NAB had no answer for it as it prayed that the defendant had the allegation of assets beyond means and money laundering.
“What aspects are necessary to investigate the matter of a benamidar? Did NAB investigate it properly?” the presiding judge further asked.
"Suleman Shehbaz received the TT in 1996," the NAB prosecutor informed the court.
"You are talking about Suleman Shehbaz and we are asking about Shehbaz Sharif," the judge pointed out. "You have to establish that Suleman Shehbaz was dependent on Shehbaz Sharif."
The NAB prosecutor replied that a plot that Nusrat Shehbaz had purchased in Model Town had been actually purchased with the money made by Shehbaz Sharif’s sons through TTs.
"The Model Town residence was declared Chief Minister’s Office for 10 years and Shehbaz Sharif was living in his wife’s house," the NAB prosecutor told the judge.
To this, Shehbaz’s counsel replied his client was still living at the Model Town residence with his wife.
The courtroom reverberated with a loud laughter when Justice Najafi responded by saying: “I think Shehbaz Sharif is living in jail.”
The bench after hearing the arguments from both sides announced the decision with consensus. “The bail is allowed with the consensus of colleague judges,” Justice Najafi announced.
On April 14, an LHC division bench comprising Justice Dogar and Justice Ghural had briefly reserved the judgment after hearing arguments from both the parties.
However, Shehbaz's lawyers of failed to get the court’s written order both on April 14 and April 15. They later found out that Justicel Ghural has not signed the bail order.
Speaking to the media outside the LHC, senior PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah said Shehbaz’s innocence was proven today.
He added that political victimisation at the hands of Prime Minister Imran Khan and “his NAB” was put to an end by the court’s larger bench, vindicating Shehbaz.
Sanaullah observed that the claims made by the premier and his aide Shehzad Akbar bore no fruit, saying that truth behind the false case came out today.
“Today the nation has the right to ask Imran Khan whether or not he had worked on [any] welfare projects since he came to power, made any effort to ameliorate the fate of the poor masses or strived for putting the country on the right track,” the PML-N leader stated.
“The answer will be a ‘no’, as the PM [instead] used his energies to corner the PML-N, creating designs on how to involve them in false cases,” he added.
Now, the PML-N leader added, the time had come for fair and transparent elections, free from anyone’s involvement.
Separately, an accountability court in Islamabad on Thursday ordered the authorities concerned to auction the property owned by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif after he was declared an absconder in Toshakhana reference.
The court, however, issued directions to auction only those properties against which no objections had been raised, APP reported.
AC-III Judge Syed Asghar Ali heard the graft reference filed by NAB against former president Asif Ali Zardari and two ex-prime ministers Sharif and Yousuf Raza Gilani.
The court also granted a one-day exemption from hearing to Zardari and Gilani.