LAHORE: An accountability court in Lahore on Monday extended former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif’s physical remand by 10 days in the Ashiana Housing scheme case.
The Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president was presented in court today. During the hearing, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sought a 15-day extension in his physical remand.
The court earlier reserved its decision on NAB’s request for an extension but later extended it by 10 days, including a three-day transit remand. The court then ordered that Shehbaz be produced again on November 7.
Shehbaz was arrested on October 5 in the Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme case after he appeared before NAB in the Saaf Pani case. On October 6, an accountability court in Lahore had granted the anti-graft body a 10-day physical remand of Shehbaz. The PML-N president’s remand was then extended on October 16 by 14 days.
The PML-N president’s physical remand ends tomorrow, however, he was presented in the accountability court today as October 30 is a holiday.
Shehbaz was brought to court amid tight security and a large number of PML-N supporters were gathered outside the premises.
The PML-N workers chanted slogans against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and even clashed with police personnel deployed outside the court. Following the clashes, police resorted to baton-charge.
Senior PML-N leaders, including Marriyum Aurangzeb, were not allowed to enter the court for the hearing.
Shehbaz was represented by his counsels Amjad Pervaiz and Azam Nazir Tarar. The PML-N president’s son, Hamza Shehbaz, was also present in court for the hearing.
As the hearing went under way, Shehbaz presented arguments in his defense himself.
“I have been implicated in false cases,” Shehbaz told the accountability court. “NAB officials blackmail me,” he added.
The PML-N president further said, “I battled blood cancer but they [NAB officials] are not even allowing me to get my check-up done.”
“I was on my deathbed but God is great and gave me health,” Shehbaz added.
“Last week, I requested officials to get my blood test conducted and I have to remind them again and again to do so. I was told that they have told the higher-ups and when they receive an order they will tell me,” he further said. “I am required to regularly get my check-ups.”
The leader of the opposition in NA regretted, “I am not even allowed to meet my family.”
“Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav was allowed to meet his family but I am not permitted to meet mine even once a week,” he said.
The PML-N president further shared, “I have been blessed with a grandson and am thankful to God for it.”
At this, the NAB prosecutor expressed reservations, however, Shehbaz said, “I am a human and a Pakistani. Let people express their views.”
Stating that he “served the province,” Shehbaz upheld, “If this is a crime then I will continue doing it. God’s court is the biggest.”
“I have rights which I am not being granted. I am being tortured but God willing this too will soon pass,” he added.
Reading out a verse, Shehbaz said, “Ye kaun bol rah? th? ?hud? ke lahje meñ.”
Meanwhile, Shehbaz’s counsels expressed reservations over the heavy deployment of police at the court premises. “A curfew was imposed outside the court and even we were not being granted permission to enter the court premises,” the counsels said.
The NAB prosecutor then again expressed reservations and said, “Shehbaz is giving answers himself to allegations against him.”
The accountability court judge then directed Shehbaz “to speak freely”.
To this, Shehbaz said, “I revealed the Kamran Kayani secret in the National Assembly and will speak in court with evidence.”
Presenting the minutes of the first meeting for the bidding of the contract, Shehbaz said, “The inquiry is from December 2013 to October 2014 and I’m reading out minutes from February 27, 2014.”
The PML-N president continued, “Even last time I said that I did not cancel the first bid, in December 2014 a second bid was conducted which was held by PLDC. I cancelled Kamran Kayani’s contract. We received 50 bids and I supported and praised Allahuddin.”
Further, he said, “During the last remand hearing, NAB had also spoken of the second bid but then they distorted facts and misinformed the court.”
Presenting documents regarding Punjab Public Partnership, Shehbaz said, “In the last 25 days I have cleared all allegations regarding Ashiana Housing and Saaf Pani case.”
At this, the NAB prosecutor said, “Shehbaz Sharif is misstating facts, he served as Punjab chief minister twice.”
However, Shehbaz said the NAB prosecutor was “wrong” and added, “I was Punjab chief minister thrice.”
However, the NAB prosecutor said, “Shehbaz has a habit of asking questions rather than answering them.”
Further, during the hearing, a female lawyer spoke in favour of Shehbaz. To this, the judge remarked, “We know you are also present here.”
The NAB prosecutor then requested a 15-day extension in Shehbaz’s physical remand. The prosecutor further requested that the court approved Shehbaz’s transit remand as his production orders have been issued to attend today’s National Assembly session.
However, Shehbaz’s counsel opposed to NAB’s request for extension in his physical remand.
The court then reserved its decision but later extended Shehbaz’s remand by 10 days. Granting a three-day transit remand, the court adjourned the hearing till November 7.
Last month, Shehbaz Sharif was summoned by NAB in the Ashiana Housing case while former Lahore Development Authority chairman Ahad Cheema is on judicial remand after having been arrested over the case.
In July, the accountability bureau arrested senior bureaucrat Fawad Hassan Fawad in various corruption cases, including the Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme case.
Sources revealed that Shehbaz had been summoned in the case after revelations made by Fawad during interrogation.
According to NAB officials, Fawad wrongfully awarded the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme’s contract to ‘favourites’, illegally ordered the shifting of nine CNG stations and also worked in a private bank from 2005 to 2006 without official permission.
Moreover, while being the provincial health secretary, Fawad acquired six mobile health units which were purchased at a higher-than-market rate, a NAB spokesperson said.
Fawad has served as former PM Nawaz Sharif’s principal secretary and is considered close to the former premier. He was removed from the post of principal secretary on June 1 this year and was appointed director general of Civil Services Academy, Lahore.
The accused bureaucrat was also being probed by NAB for possession of assets beyond known sources of income.
According to NAB, the contract for the housing scheme was won by a construction company titled Chaudhry Latif and Sons.
However, NAB says then Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his aides awarded the Rs14 billion contract to Lahore Casa Developers — a proxy group of Paragon City (Pvt) Limited, which is said to be owned by Railways Minister Saad Rafique.
Fawad, who was implementation secretary to the chief minister Punjab at the time, levelled charges of wrongdoings against Chaudhry Latif and sons in order for the contract to be awarded to Casa Developers.—INP