Pak Oppn leader Shahbaz Sharif arrested ahead of stir against Imran Khan govt
Just ahead of a nationwide stir against the Imran Khan government, Pakistan opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif was arrested in Lahore on Monday by the country’s anti-corruption watchdog in a money laundering case after the Lahore High Court rejected his bail plea.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from the court premises after a two-judge bench rejected his interim bail plea. The bench was hearing Shahbaz’s bail petition in a case on assets beyond income and money laundering.
A two-member bench heard detailed arguments on Sharif’s bail plea. The NAB prosecutor had challenged the plea and told the court that Sharif’s arrest was required because he is to be interrogated.
NAB prosecutor Faisal Bukhari told the court that the womenfolk in Shehbaz’s family were issued a questionnaire but no one replied to them. He further claimed that no reason was provided for the purchasing of flats in London, an issue at the heart of the case.
The opposition leader’s counsel Azam Nazir Tarar, argued against arresting his client. Tarar asked why NAB wanted to arrest Shahbaz under the charges despite the bureau completing its investigation and filing a reference in the case.
PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz tweeted that the PML-N president was arrested only because he refused to play in the hands of those who wanted to use him against his elder brother, Nawaz Sharif, her father and ousted former prime minister who is undergoing treatment in London.
The development comes just ahead of the planned protests next month by PML-N to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The government last week filed the money laundering case against 69-year-old Shahbaz, who served as chief minister of Punjab province from 2008 to 2018, and his family.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior and Accountability Shahzad Akbar last week alleged that Shahbaz and his sons - Hamza and Salman - were involved in money laundering through fake accounts.
Akbar said the financial monitoring unit had detected 177 suspicious transactions of Shahbaz’ family after which NAB started a probe.
He alleged that crores of rupees were laundered through employees of the companies owned by Shahbaz and his children.
Akbar accused Shahbaz and Hamza of taking kickbacks and commissions in return for party tickets and projects to favourites.
Before his arrest, Shahbaz told the media that Prime Minister Khan wanted to have him arrested. “It is the unholy alliance of Imran Khan and NAB that wanted to put me behind bars,” Shahbaz said.
Pakistan People’s Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari condemned Shahbaz’s arrest, saying that Prime Minister Khan was worried after the opposition parties launched an alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement, to oust his government.
The Opposition was anticipating strong reaction from the government following Nawaz Sharif’s attack on the military in the multi-party conference over a week ago.
Sharif, while addressing the conference via video link from London, had talked about the Army’s involvement in politics, saying in the country “there is a state above the state.”
The Opposition is anticipating more arrests. The NAB has already issued a call up notice to JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman who is also leading the joint opposition’s campaign against the government in income beyond means case.
(With inputs from Agencies)
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