Pakistan court grants pre-arrest bail till June 17 to Shehbaz Sharif

A Pakistani court on Wednesday granted pre-arrest bail till June 17 to Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, a day after anti-graft team raided his residence to arrest him in cases related to money laundering and assets beyond known sources of income.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday raided different places to arrest Shehbaz after he skipped hearing in money laundering and income beyond means investigation but it returned empty handed.

On Wednesday, Shehbaz came out of his ‘hideout’ and appeared before a Lahore High Court division bench to plead for pre-arrest bail.

Shehbaz, who is the president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and younger brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was granted bail till June 17. The court also asked him to submit a surety bond worth Rs 500,000.

After the court granted him bail, the NAB re-summoned him for June 9.

During the hearing, Shehbaz”s lawyers claimed that even though he was summoned by the NAB on June 2, his arrest warrants were dated May 28, showing that the anti-graft body had already made up its mind to arrest him.

The NAB’s counsel said the warrants were issued on the basis of “enough evidence” against the suspect.

His legal team had filed the pre-arrest bail petition on June 1, a day before he was required to appear before the NAB. However, the bail petition could not be fixed for hearing before the bench on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, for a third time, Shehbaz had refused to appear before NAB, citing health concerns.

“It has been widely reported in the media that some NAB officials have tested positive for Covid-19. Please appreciate [that] I am a cancer survivor and 69 years old. I have been advised limited exposure on account of the peculiar background of low immunity,” he said in a statement submitted to the NAB.

He said that he was available to answer any queries by the investigation teamvia Skype.

After he did not appear for the NAB hearing, a team of officials from the NAB and police raided his residence in Lahore”s Model Town to arrest him but left on learning that he was not present there. It later raided his friend’s house in the city but could not find him there either.

If Shehbaz had been arrested by the NAB before the hearing on his pre-arrest bail, his petition would have become infructuous.

Speaking to the media after the hearing, PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that despite accusing Shehbaz of a host of corruption-related crimes, NAB has yet to prove a single allegation.

“You must have heard a lot about 56 companies, what happened to them? You must have also heard about the Saaf Pani case, what happened to that? What happened to Ashiyana [case]?” he asked.

Shehbaz served as the chief minister of the politically crucial Punjab province from 2013 to 2018. He became PML-N president after his elder brother and three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified as the party president following a Supreme Court verdict in 2017.

He is facing corruption cases against him in the 56 companies’ case, Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Society scam, Ramzan Sugar Mills case and others.

Shehbaz and his family have denied any wrongdoing and allege that the corruption cases against them were politically motivated.

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said the NAB acted at the behest of Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi. “It is a political victimisation of the opposition leader.”

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