PMLN leader’s pre-arrest bail in money-laundering case cancelled by Lahore High Court
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Monday arrested leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif from outside the Lahore High Court (LHC) in a money-laundering case after his bail application was rejected.
Sharif had appeared before the LHC to secure an extension to pre-arrest bail when his plea was rejected. Within minutes of the bail denial, NAB took Sharif into custody and spirited him away from the court.
The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) president’s court appearance drew a large crowd of party supporters, including women, who chanted slogans against the anti-graft watchdog and the incumbent government. Local media broadcast footage of a minor scuffle between security personnel and Sharif’s supporters after NAB arrested him.
A two-member bench of the LHC presided over the former Punjab chief minister’s hearing. It had extended his pre-arrest bail earlier this month while his counsel argued the case, and had directed the conclusion of all arguments in today’s hearing.
The case concerns a reference filed by NAB in December 2019 under which it had frozen 23 properties owned by Sharif and his sons Hamza and Suleman over claims they had acquired assets beyond their known sources of income and committed money-laundering. According to NAB, an investigation had found that the PMLN president had acquired properties in the name of his wives Nusrat and Tehmina Durrani. The PMLN denies this, claiming NAB is merely trying to harass the opposition at the government’s behest.
Reacting to the arrest, PMLN spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb claimed it was the direct result of the united opposition’s all-party conference. “For the past two years, the NAB and [P.M.] Khan nexus has been harassing all political opponents,” she claimed, alleging that Sharif’s arrest was clear proof the government had started the rigging process for the upcoming Gilgit-Baltistan elections. “This was done on the orders of Imran Khan,” she alleged, claiming the intent was to “damage” the people who had worked for a prosperous Pakistan in the past. “We will not be discouraged from our fight [against this government],” she said, adding that this “drama” would not succeed.