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Nawaz consults aides over extension of Shahbaz remand

Nawaz consults aides over extension of Shahbaz remand

LAHORE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has directed the legal brains of his party to contest the National Accountability Bureau’s plea for further extension of Shahbaz Sharif’s physical remand when it comes up for hearing on Oct 30.

The ousted premier believes that the NAB’s case against Shahbaz is “very weak” and his physical remand in the bureau’s custody should not be extended.

Naseer Ahmad Bhutta, who heads the PML-N’s Lawyers Forum, Azam Nazir Tarar, a member of the Pakistan Bar Council, and Senator Rana Maqbool, a former provincial adviser on prosecution, briefed Mr Sharif about the case of PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif at his Jati Umra residence on Sunday.

After the meeting Naseer Bhutta told Dawn that they had briefed Mr Sharif exclusively about the Ashiyana housing case in which Shahbaz Sharif had been arrested by NAB.

Ex-PM believes NAB case against opposition leader is ‘very weak’

“Mian Sahib is very concerned about Shahbaz’s case as he believes it is a weak case and he (Shahbaz) should not be in NAB’s custody. Mr Sharif has directed the legal team to contest in the accountability court NAB’s request for further extension to his (Shahbaz) physical remand,” he said.

An accountability court extended the physical remand of Shahbaz Sharif, the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, last week for 14 days (till Oct 30) in the Rs14 billion Ashiyana-i-Iqbal housing scheme scam.

The Lahore NAB arrested Mr Shahbaz on Oct 5 after he appeared before a combined investigation team in this case. The former Punjab chief minister claimed that he was summoned over the Saaf Pani Company case for investigation, but arrested in the Ashiyana case instead. Shahbaz dismissed all allegations by NAB.

Mr Bhutta, a former additional attorney general, said NAB had no evidence against Shahbaz Sharif in the Ashiyana case as he did not commit any illegality.

“Since Mr Shahbaz is cooperating with NAB [in the Ashiyana case investigation], there is no justification for his arrest. We will strongly oppose in the court further extension in his remand and afterwards move for his bail,” he said.

In the last hearing, NAB’s special prosecutor Waris Ali Janjua argued that the former chief minister had been trying to conceal the identity of the complainant on the basis of which contract of the Ashiyana scheme was withdrawn from the successful bidder on verbal orders from him (Shahbaz).

Mr Shahbaz has not so far responded to queries as to why he ordered the execution of the housing project under public-private partnership and entrusted it to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), Mr Janjua added.

Shahbaz Sharif is primarily accused of directing the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) to assign the Ashiyana project to the LDA, resulting in the award of contract to Lahore Casa Developers , causing a loss of Rs715 million and eventual failure of the project.

The former chief minister had also directed the PLDC to award consultancy services of the project to M/s Engineering Consultancy Services, Punjab, for Rs192 million, whereas the actual cost was Rs35m, as quoted by Nespak.

Fawad Hasan Fawad, a former principal secretary to the prime minister, and Ahad Khan Cheema, LDA’s ex-director general, have already been arrested in the Ashiyana case and are in jail on judicial custody.

The National Accountability Bureau has recently launched another investigation against Shahbaz Sharif to look for his “illegal” assets.

The bureau initiated this inquiry on reports that Shahbaz possesses assets beyond his known sources of income.

During interrogation, Shahbaz Sharif said his son Salman looked after the family business.

“Salman Shahbaz provided some record to NAB, but it sought more details from him, terming his reply unsatisfactory,” an official said.

Meanwhile, Shahbaz’s wife Nusrat and sons — Hamza and Salman — met him in NAB’s provincial headquarters at Thokar Niaz Beg, Lahore, on Sunday.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2018

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