LAHORE: An accountability court in Lahore on Saturday adjourned proceedings in Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme and Ramzan Sugar Mills cases against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and the Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz, and PML-N president and the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly (NA) Shehbaz Sharif.
Defense counsel, appeared on behalf of Shahbaz, and told the court that his client was out of country for medical reasons. He sought a 14-day exemption from personal appearance for Shahbaz and filed a written application to this effect.
Judge Jawadul Hassan presided over the hearing, and directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to submit its response. The testimonies of more witnesses were to be recorded in the case in today’s hearing.
However, the NAB prosecutor has been opposing applications, filed on behalf of Shehbaz, by arguing that he had not been appearing for the hearings. Meanwhile, the further hearing was adjourned until 28 May.
Shahbaz was released on post-arrest bail in the housing scheme case, while Hamza was on pre-arrest bail in the sugar mills case.
Police ensured strict security arrangements outside the judicial complex and also blocked adjoining roads for routine traffic. The litigant public was also denied entry to the complex.
Hamza spoke to the media, after his appearance in the court, and stated that the matter of the NAB’s chairman should be raised with the Supreme Judicial Council.
He put the blame on the accountability watchdog for spreading fear and panic among the business community, and thereby contributing to the state’s economic meltdown. “It has been proved that Imran Khan is an incompetent prime minister,” he said.
All the accused persons had already been indicted in Ramzan Sugar Mills case. Shehbaz, Hamza and his brother Salman Shehbaz had been indicted for building a drainage system, a 10-km nullah for draining of water from the mill, by misusing the authority and misappropriating Rs21 million of public funds for their benefit, for which they pleaded not guilty.
Earlier on May 22, the Lahore High Court (LHC) extended Hamza’s pre-arrest bail in three different cases, including Ramzan Sugar Mills, Punjab Saaf Pani Company and assets beyond means, till May 28.
On May 8, the court extended his bail till May 22 when his counsel pointed out that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had not given them reasons for his arrest and the documents showing approval of the inquiries by the competent authority.
Contrarily, the NAB prosecutor told the bench that some documents were furnished to the petitioner; however, a report of the Financial Monitoring Unit could not be handed over to him as it was protected under the anti-money laundering law.