LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday granted Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader Hamza Shahbaz pre-arrest bail till April 17 and restrained the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from arresting him for cases pertaining to ownership of assets beyond means and money laundering.
The high court also ordered him to pay surety bonds worth Rs10 million and issued a notice to NAB seeking its reply in the matter.
A NAB team seeking Hamza’s arrest was embroiled in a nearly five-hour-long standoff with his private security and supporters at his family’s Model Town residence on Saturday. It was the second day in a row that the NAB had approached his residence for his arrest. The stalemate ended once the LHC restrained the bureau from arresting the MPA and granted him protective bail until April 8.
Hamza Shahbaz was represented by Advocate Amjad Pervez before the two-judge bench. A team of the bureau’s legal experts were also in the courtroom.
PML-N workers at the Lahore High Court, armed with banners, chanted slogans in Hamza’s favour until they were warned by security that they would be expelled from the premises if they did not show respect for the court. They continued a silent show of support for their leader thereafter.
Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan, taking note of the large gathering, remarked: “So many people have been called here today. What is all this?” Hamza replied that he had not called the PML-N workers.
“What will happen in the future if such sloganeering has already begun?” Justice Mirza Waqas Rauf asked.
The court asked NAB’s lawyer which case the bureau wanted to arrest the PML-N leader in, to which he replied that there are a total of three cases against Hamza and they wanted to arrest him in the case pertaining to assets beyond means.
The lawyer added that arrest warrants in the Ramzan Sugar Mills and the Saaf Pani Company cases had not yet been issued.
The PML-N leader’s legal counsel Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar told the court that Hamza had been granted bail by the LHC in the Ramzan Sugar Mills case and added that the high court had ordered that a 10-day notice be given prior to his arrest.
According to Tarar, the 10-day time period had been given so that they could secure bail from the appropriate forum.
He said that NAB had raided Hamza’s house without a warning and added that the PML-N leader wanted to secure pre-arrest bail so that he can appear before NAB.
During the proceedings, NAB’s lawyer said that the Supreme Court had given a verdict which said the accountability bureau was not required to give a 10-day notice. He added that illegal transactions had taken place in Hamza’s accounts.
“The purpose of the arrest is to ensure that the record does not disappear at the behest of Hamza,” he said adding that, the PML-N leader’s bail request should be rejected.
Justice Khan said that detailed arguments would be heard later and added that the high court respected the SC order.