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Court extends interim bail of Shehbaz, Hamza until May 28

PM reiterates his innocence, says cases against him were politically motivated

The Special Court Central-I on Saturday extended until May 28 the interim bail of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz in Rs16 billion money laundering case against them.

Judge Ijaz Hassan Awan was hearing the case, who also issued arrest warrants for three absconders – Suleman Shehbaz, Tahir Naqvi and Malik Maqsood – in the case. Shehbaz Sharif, who skipped the last few hearings due to foreign visits and important engagements, appeared before the court amid tight security arrangements. Hamza Shehbaz also appeared after his father in the court. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah also showed up there to extend support to his leadership, and was accompanied by other Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders, including Ata Tarar.

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The police barred the journalists from entering the premises and also stopped some judges’ vehicles, besides exchanging harsh words with lawyers. PML-N leader Ata Tarar staged a token protest outside the courtroom to support the journalists who were barred by the police from entering the court premises.

Shehbaz, who witnessed the situation, directed the police not to stop people and the journalists from going to the court. It was observed that few reporters who reached there earlier were allowed entry and then Prime Minister Shehbaz and his son Hamza went to the courtroom to attend the proceedings.

“The situation outside the court is not good,” observed judge Awan, as he resumed the hearing. Addressing Shehbaz Sharif, the judge remarked, “You are prime minister here.”

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On it, Shehbaz said that he would look into the matter.

The judge expressed dismay over the security situation and summoned the Civil Lines superintendent of police for stopping judges from entering the court. The court issued show-cause notice to the police officer but later withdrew it, and the judge directed the security officials to devise a security plan for the future and not prevent lawyers, suspects and court reporters from entering the premises.

At the outset of the proceedings, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) prosecutor Farooq Bajwa started arguments about three suspects in the case who were declared “absconders”, saying that an application was moved for action against them. The prosecutor asked the court to frame charges against the suspects at the same time. The judge observed that action against absconders was taken by a magistrate. Farooq Bajwa pleaded with the court that proceedings to declare the suspects absconders should be completed, pointing out that it would benefit them (suspects) if the case continued.

Advocate Amjad Pervaiz, the counsel for Shehbaz Sharif, also argued and said the FIA included some “allegations” against his client (Shehbaz) and others between 2008 and 2018 but later removed many of them. He contended, “Fake companies were used in the matter and a transaction of Rs2 billion was made through one of the accounts.” He told the court that the allegations leveled by the previous investigation team were not mentioned in the new challan (investigation report).

He told the court that there was a huge difference between the FIR allegations and the challan. He said that in the challan, the FIA had once mentioned Rs25 billion.

During the proceedings, Shehbaz Sharif came to the rostrum and reiterated his innocence.

He said that he did not commit corruption, and added that the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom had given him a clean chit, besides other investigators.

“The NCA had conducted an investigation for about two years and finally did not find anything, [not] even corruption of one rupee, against me,” he said. The PM said he had lived and worked in the UK, and that all the cases against him were politically motivated.

He said he served as the Punjab chief minister for 10 years but did not withdraw salary.

The PM’s lawyer said the suspects tolerated insults despite lack of evidence, which propaganda was done all these years.

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