Housing scam: Shehbaz Sharif remanded to 10-day NAB custody

Lahore, Oct 6 : An accountability court in Lahore on Saturday granted the country’s anti-graft body a 10-day physical remand of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) President Shehbaz Sharif in a housing scam case.

The former Punjab Chief Minister, who was taken into custody by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) a day earlier, was produced before the accountability court while the watchdog sought his custody in a “campaign against corruption”.

The NAB said Sharif was involved in corruption in the multi-billion Ashiana Housing Scheme case during his tenure as the Punjab province Chief Minister from 2013 to May 2018.

The hearing was originally scheduled to take place inside the judge’s chamber, but was later moved to an open court following PML-N lawyers’ protest.

A NAB prosecutor told the judge that Sharif had “misused his powers” as the Chief Minister and granted the contract to his favourite company, causing “losses of millions of rupees to the national exchequer”.

The watchdog alleged that the leader of the opposition provided contracts on high rates to unqualified companies of his friends.

Lahore Development Authority’s former Director General Ahad Cheema and senior bureaucrat Fawad Hassan Fawad were already in NAB custody in connection with the scam.

Sharif’s defence lawyer rejected the NAB’s assertions as “baseless”.

“I did not do anything illegal. I have always worked for the prosperity of this country,” the leader said during the hearing.

He said the case against him “was made on political basis”.

Following the hearing, Sharif was sent back to the NAB office — where he had spent the previous night — in an armoured vehicle amid tight security.

Earlier, hundreds of angry PML-N supporters created a ruckus in the premises of the court in Lahore and stopped the armoured vehicle of the police in which Shehbaz Sharif was brought to the court. Paramilitary troops and anti-riot police had to disperse the protesters and the leader was then taken to the NAB court.

The PML-N lawmakers on Saturday called emergency meeting of the Parliament to discuss the situation. Senior PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq and senator Raja Zafar-ul-Haq told the media that the party had sought cooperation from other opposition parties and described Shehbaz Sharif’s arrest as “unjustified”.

The arrest came a little over a week ahead of the by-polls scheduled for October 14. Shehbaz Sharif is being probed in other corruption cases as well.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned his brother’s arrest as “ridiculous and state victimization”.
(IANS)

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