LAHORE: A Pakistani court on Thursday granted bail to the PML-N chief and opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif, nearly eight months after he was arrested by the country’s top anti-graft body over his alleged involvement in money laundering and assets beyond means cases.
A three-judge bench of the Lahore high court, headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, gave a unanimous verdict in favour of 69-year-old Shehbaz, the younger brother of the three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
On April 14, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) celebrated after the two-member bench of the LHC granted bail to Shehbaz. However, later it was transpired that it was a split decision with Justice Sardar Mohammad Sarfraz Dogar, who had headed the bench, accepted his bail petition, while the other member, Justice Asjad Javed Ghural, had opposed it.
On this, the chief justice constituted a three-member bench to decide the matter.
Interestingly, Justice Ghural had accused Justice Dogar of issuing the bail granting short order ‘unilaterally’.
“It is shocking for me to observe here that it has been mentioned in the beginning paragraph of the said order that unanimous order qua grant of bail to the petitioner was announced, which is against the ground reality,” Justice Gural had said.
On Thursday, the three-member bench (a referee bench) issued a short court order granting Shehbaz bail against furnishing two bail bonds worth PKR 5 million each. Shehbaz is expected be be released from jail on Friday.
Shehbaz was arrested in September 2020 in both cases by the National Accountability Bureau.
The NAB had alleged that Shehbaz’s family had assets of around PKR 16.5 million till 1990, which increased to over PKR 7 billion in 2018 which were disproportionate to his known sources of income.
The NAB has already filed a case against Shehbaz in the accountability court. Shehbaz’s counsel told the court since no investigation was pending against his client in these cases as the NAB had already filed a case against him, he should be granted bail.
Shehbaz is accused of beneficiary of assets held in the name of his family members and benamidars who had no sources to acquire such assets. NAB says, “Shehbaz and other suspects committed offences of corruption and corrupt practices as envisaged under the provisions of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 and money laundering as delineated in the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010.”
A total of 20 people had been nominated in the case. The other main suspects are Shehbaz’s wife Nusrat, his sons Hamza (leader of opposition in Punjab assembly) and Suleman (who is absconding in the UK), and his daughters Rabia Imran and Javeria Ali.
Shehbaz’s elder brother Nawaz Sharif has been in London since November 2019 on ‘medical grounds’. The Imran Khan government has declared Sharif an absconder and cancelled his passport.
Nawaz left the country after the court granted him bail in the Al-Azizia Mills corruption case in which he was undergoing seven years imprisonment in Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore. He was also granted four-week bail on medical grounds to have his treatment abroad. The government declared him an absconder after he failed to justify prolonging his stay in London.