A special court in Lahore on Saturday was unable to frame charges in a money laundering case on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz due to the absence of the premier from the hearing.
The prime minister is currently in London and undergoing 'medical treatment'.
Shehbaz and his sons -- Hamza and Suleman -- were booked by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in November 2020 under Sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 and 109 of the PPC and 5(2) and 5(3) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and r/w 3/4 of Anti Money Laundering Act.
Fourteen others were also named in the FIR under Sections 5(2) and 5(3) (criminal misconduct) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, read with 3/4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
The agency had accused Shehbaz and his sons of laundering about Rs16 billion.
As the proceedings commenced, the special court central judge was informed that the prime minister was not present in Pakistan.
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The counsel implored the court that PM Shehbaz is in London for medical treatment and also submitted an application seeking exemption from personal appearance on medical grounds.
However, the newly appointed special prosecutor from the FIA, Farooq Bajwa, did not oppose the application but sought further time to prepare the case.
The judge remarked that the premier should have changed the schedule of his foreign visit due to the nature of the case and added that "today’s proceeding was not a routine one".
Meanwhile, Bajwa implored the court that there was no objection to extending the application submitted on medical grounds, but in the real essence of the Constitution, all accused should be present in the courtroom at the time of indictment.
The PM’s counsel also argued that it was the responsibility of the prosecution to establish the allegation.
He further prayed that the witnesses against his client did not mention any crime in their statements, whereas former interior minister Sheikh Rashid had forwarded the statements of the witnesses.
The judge scheduled the next hearing for May 21.
Petitioners Shehbaz and Hamza, in their bails, had contended that the FIA's version of events have "nothing to do with reality".
They added that they wanted to appear before the investigation team but they feared being arrested by the FIA.
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