Court confirms pre-arrest bail of Shehbaz, Hamza

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A special court in Lahore on Saturday confirmed pre-arrest bails of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz in a Rs16 billion money laundering case registered against them by the Federal Investigation Agency and directed them to submit bail bonds of Rs1 million each.

The court also confirmed the pre-arrest bails of other suspects in the case and directed them to submit bail bonds of Rs200,000 each.

In the hearing, the investigation officer informed the court that neither he nor the previous IO had submitted a fresh report requiring Shehbaz and Hamza’s custody.

It contradicted FIA Prosecutor Farooq Bajwa’s statement, who had confirmed to the court during the last hearing that the agency wanted to arrest the leaders.

Presiding Judge of the Special Court (Central-I), Ijaz Hassan Awan, had extended Shehbaz and Hamza’s interim bails in the case till June 11 during the last hearing. Both leaders appeared in court as well.

At the outset of the hearing, the FIA submitted a report about non-bailable arrest warrants issued for three suspects, including Shehbaz’s son Suleman Shehbaz, Malik Maqsood and Tahir Naqvi. The report stated that the warrants could not be executed since Suleman was not present at his address and had gone abroad. In addition, the FIA had written a letter to the relevant agency for verification of Maqsood’s death, according to the report.

The same was stated by FIA Prosecutor Bajwa who informed the court that the agency had written to Interpol in connection with Maqsood’s death.

The judge then directed the FIA to submit a verified report. He also made a newspaper clipping about the death part of the court proceedings.

PM Shehbaz, while addressing the court, said the FIA’s case was similar to another one registered against him by the National Accountability Bureau.

There are cases related to the Ashiana Housing scheme and the Ramazan Sugar Mill against me, he said. When the judge asked Shehbaz whether he had any shares in those businesses, the premier responded in the negative.

“In the Ashiana case, it was alleged that I had misused my authority. The Lahore High Court has given a detailed verdict in my cases. The NAB approached the Supreme Court for revocation of my bail and the then chief justice asked where the proof of corruption was.

“The NAB ran away from there,” Shehbaz claimed.

The premier told the court that FIA had approached him twice when he was in NAB’s custody but he had told them he would not respond without consulting his lawyer.

“I told them all facts verbally. My cases were decided on merit and I was freed. Honour is also a man’s asset. Extremely serious allegations were levelled against me.”

Shehbaz also said he had appeared in several hearings related to the FIA case but the agency had not submitted a challan (investigation report) because it wanted to “create a path for arrest”.

“If I wanted to do money laundering or corruption, I would have taken the benefits I was entitled to legally. If I wanted to blacken my face with money laundering, why would I cause losses to my family’s sugar mills [during my tenure as chief minister]?”

The premier said he had not given sugar mills subsidies so as to not burden the national exchequer, adding that he had protected Punjab’s treasury instead of wasting it.

“My sons had set up factories for ethanol production but I imposed a tax on them,” he continued. The previous PTI government had removed that tax, he added.

“I do not have anything to do with the sugar business. All facts stated by the FIA are incorrect.” He also outlined programmes announced during his tenure as CM, including giving Bolan vans to unemployed people. “We got the car company to give a discount of Rs2.5bn and benefitted the national treasury.

“The day of judgement will arrive but the FIA will not be able to prove even a rupee worth of corruption,” he insisted. “I went abroad 60 times; I have never taken a salary or petrol [allowance].I did not take government benefits.

 

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