LHC restrains NAB from arresting Opposition Leader Punjab Assembly

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court restrained the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from arresting Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Malik Shehzad Ahmed Khan heard the PML-N leader’s bail petition. Restraining the accountability watchdog from arresting Hamza until further notice, the court sought a detailred reply from NAB.

Further, the court directed Hamza to submit bail bonds worth Rs10 million.

NAB had carried out two successive raids on Friday and Saturday at PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif’s Model Town residence to arrest Hamza. 

During today’s hearing, Hamza’s lawyer told the court, “In an earlier order, the high court had directed that Hamza be informed 10 days prior to his arrest. The LHC had granted bail to my client in the Ramzan Sugar Mills case.”

“Hamza is the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly and the 10-day order had been issued so the relevant forum can be approached for bail. Hamza is seeking pre-arrest bail so he can appear before NAB,” the PML-N leader’s counsel further said. 

Justice Malik Shehzad then asked the NAB prosecutor regarding the cases in which they are seeking to arrest Hamza. At this, the PML-N leader’s counsel said his arrest warrants have been issued in a case pertaining to assets beyond known sources of income.

The NAB prosecutor said, “Three cases against Hamza are being probed in NAB Lahore.” 

Hamza’s lawyer then said, “NAB should share evidence against us and we will respond. Hamza had also approached LHC before this on November 1 and is innocent.”

However, the  NAB prosecutor stated, “We have solid evidence against Hamza. On April 3, an inquiry against Hamza was upgraded to an investigation. Hamza’s earlier bail petition had been declared ineffective and the Supreme Court has issued a ruling on this matter.”

At this, the bench said, “Both the matters are separate.”

After hearing arguments of both sides, the court restrained NAB from arresting Hamza until further notice and sought a reply from the accountability bureau. 

The hearing of the case has been adjourned till April 17.

On Saturday, the LHC issued a short order granting interim bail to Hamza until April 8. The high court’s written order stated that an interim protective bail has been granted to Hamza “in order to enable the petitioner to approach” the concerned bench for the hearing of a bail plea that was filed on April 4. Advocate Amjad Pervez had appeared before the LHC on Hamza’s behalf and argued that Hamza had filed a request for interim bail.