Accountability court sends Shahbaz to jail on judicial remand

An accountability court in Lahore on Thursday sent PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif to jail on a judicial remand in connection with the Ashiana Housing Scheme case.

Sharif, who was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on October 15, has had his remand extended multiple times — the last of which took place on Nov 28.

That eight-day extension expired today, following which he was produced before the court, with the corruption watchdog seeking another extension of his physical remand.

The request for physical remand was, however, turned down by the court, which sent Shahbaz to jail on a judicial remand instead. He was later transferred to the Camp Jail.

In today’s hearing, Sharif’s lawyer Amjad Pervez told the court that details of his client’s finances from 2011 to 2017, were clearly stated in the records of his tax return. He added that “tax laws did not require citizens to mention details of gifts”.

Furthermore, Sharif had withdrawn money from his personal account, which is not a crime under Pakistan’s law, Pervaiz said. He argued that there was no evidence of Sharif spending more than his income.

“It would have been a crime if [Shahbaz’s expenses] had exceeded his tax returns,” Pervaiz said and urged the court to refuse NAB’s demand for extension of a physical remand.

Pervez said that Sharif was being accused of corruption because he is a politician and has remained Punjab’s chief minister.

NAB prosecutor Waris Ali Janjua apprised the court of the investigation’s progress and requested a further 15-day extension in Sharif’s physical remand. According to NAB, Sharif had abused his powers during his time as the chief minister of Punjab.

Accountability judge Syed Najmul Hasan heard the case.

The leader of the opposition in the Parliament will be produced before the court again on Dec 13.

As Shahbaz was produced before the court, a commotion took place outside the courtroom after police denied lawyers entry on the purported orders of Superintendent of Police Iqrar Haider. Contingents of female officers were also posted outside the courtroom as women tried to force their way in. The disturbance did not die down despite Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz’s appeals for calm during the hearing.

Video Courtesy by Dawn News

Meanwhile, several PML-N workers were arrested from outside the court building following clashes with security officials. Reacting to the arrests, PML-N Spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb claimed that the party’s “peaceful workers had been arrested” and demanded their immediate release.

She said that baton charge on “our peaceful protest is proof of the government’s incompetence”.

Punjab Information and Culture Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan accused PML-N leader Hamza of “masterminding” the clashes outside the court, adding that “the PML-N is on its way towards the policy of collision”.