Lahore – Tahir Chudhary:
Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz on Tuesday approached the Lahore High Court seeking post-arrest bail in an inquiry which National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had initiated under allegations of money laundering and assets beyond of income.
In his plea, Hamza has contended that in order to deter the opposition from criticizing its performance, the incumbent government thought it appropriate to implicate the petitioner and his family in false criminal cases and for this purpose NAB was selected.
He argued that it is no more secrete that NAB is being used as a tool for political engineering and has also since been noticed by the superior courts including the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Hamaz stated that NAB has, inter alia, assumed jurisdiction on the basis of an undated letter (received by the bureau on October 19, 2018) from an undisclosed/unnamed complainant (the “complaint”) and a purported report received from the Financial Monitoring Unit.
“Thereafter, with undue haste, a letter on October 23, 2018 was issued by the Director General NAB to an assistant director purportedly authorizing inquiry against the Petitioner and his family members,” he said adding that further, a letter on April 4, 2019 was issued by the Director General NAB to the Assistant Director authorizing an investigation against the petitioner and others.
He implored the court that he was arrested in connection with the investigation by NAB officials on June 11, 2019, under alleged offences of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010 (the “AML Act”) and the NAO, 1999.
“The physical remand of the petitioner was extended from time to time and ultimately he was sent to judicial lockup after a period of 84 days. The petitioner filed after arrest bail which was dismissed on February 11, 2020,” the plea stated.
On August 20, 2020, during the pendency of the above said CPLA, respondent Chairman NAB filed reference against the petitioner and 15 others which was registered as accountability reference.
The plea further stated that the said reference comprised of as many as 58 volumes spreading over thousands of pages whereas 110 prosecution witnesses were cited in the calendar, charge was framed on November 11, 2020.
“It was in the above context of number of witnesses and framing of charge on November 11, 2020 after 17 months of the arrest of the petitioner that the Supreme Court was pleased to call for report from the respondent bureau on December 8, 2020.
Complying with the superior court’s order a report was submitted by NAB wherein as many as 46 accountability references were stated to be pending before the Learned Trial Court and the reference against the petitioner was at serial 44.
During the course of hearing of the above said CPLA, it transpired that certain grounds on merits have become available on the basis of material attached with the reference filed after the decision of earlier writ petition seeking bail by this court, moreover, the ground of hardship due to prolonged and continuous incarceration of the petitioner coupled with the report by the trial court qua expected time required for the conclusion of trial was also not available at the time of the decision of earlier writ petition before this court.
It was in the above context that the above said CPLA was not pressed so as to urge the above said grounds before this court in the first instance and thus the above said CPLA was decided vide order on January 22, 2021.