The indictment of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz in a Rs16 billion money laundering case was delayed again on Saturday as the newly appointed prosecutor sought time to study the case.
As the hearing commenced, the counsel for Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif moved an application in the court, stating that the premier was due to visit his medical consultant in the United Kingdom due to backache.
He further stated that Shehbaz also had to reschedule his return so he could visit the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to offer his condolences on the demise of the country’s president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He asked the court to grant his client exemption from personal appearance.
At this, the judge remarked that Shehbaz Sharif’s appearance was mandatory for his indictment in the case as it was not a usual date of hearing.
The FIA’s prosecutor said that he would not oppose the exemption from personal appearance on medical grounds.
Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz appeared before the court. However, the rules required the appearance of all suspects for indictment in any case.
Advocate Amjad Pervaiz, who was representing Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz, also extended his arguments to prove innocence of his clients.
He said the case was more like a media trial and there was nothing in it to prove his clients guilty. He said the case was politically motivated and the FIA initially delayed the submission of challan and later submitted it when it “realized pressure from the court”.
The court extended bail granted to Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz and put off further hearing till May 21.
Earlier, charges could not be framed against the suspects in the money laundering case on April 11 and April 27 owing to their absence.
Previously, a special prosecutor had moved an application and said that he was barred by the FIA DG from appearing before the court hearing the money laundering case against Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz.
“It was conveyed that the DG no longer wanted to pursue the case,” he said in his written request, which was later made part of the record of the case by the court.
Farooq Bajwa, the new special public prosecutor was appointed in the case.
The FIA had booked Shehbaz and his sons Hamza and Suleman in November 2020 under sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 and 109 of Prevention of Corruption Act and r/w 3/4 of Anti Money Laundering Act. Suleman Shehbaz is in the UK and has been declared an absconder.
Fourteen others have also been named in the FIR under sections 5(2) and 5(3) (criminal misconduct) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The special court had on Jan 27 granted pre-arrest bail to Shehbaz and Hamza in the case.
In another money laundering case, CM Hamza Shehbaz appeared before an accountability court while Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif moved an application for exemption from personal appearance.
During the proceedings, the state counsel told the court that the record about the Ashiana reference was burnt to ashes and a case was registered in this regard in 2017. The official said that they were yet to find the record.
At this, the court ordered the CCPO to present the record on the next hearing and adjourned the proceedings till May 25.