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Court allows NAB to quiz Shahbaz
By Tariq Butt / Agencies October 07, 2018
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LAHORE: A Pakistani court on Saturday said it would allow the country’s anti-graft body to hold opposition leader and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shahbaz Sharif for 10 days to interrogate him about alleged links to a multi-million dollar Ashiana Housing Scheme scam, his party said.

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb and Pervez Malik protested with other party workers gathered outside the court building as early as 7am. On Shahbaz’s arrival, the emotionally charged workers mounted the armoured vehicle, chanting slogans in Shahbaz’s favour. They had to be forced off by the police.

Shahbaz, who was taken into custody by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday was produced before the court while the watchdog sought his custody. 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.

“I did not do anything illegal,” Shahbaz said during the hearing. “I have always worked for the prosperity of Pakistan. We recovered millions from those who looted the country and deposited the recoveries in the national treasury.”

Shahbaz is accused of ordering as the chief minister the cancellation of a contract given to successful bidder Chaudhry Latif and Sons for the Ashiana Housing Scheme, and engineering the subsequent award of the contract to Lahore Casa Developers, a proxy group of Paragon City Private Limited, resulting in a loss of Rs193 million to the exchequer.

His counsel Amjad Pervez justified the cancellation of the contract and said Chaudhry Latif is an absconder in an anti-corruption case. “In one case, Latif’s company is blacklisted.”

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

Prior to the hearing, NAB prosecutor Waris Ali Janjua said the accountability watchdog would request 15-day physical remand of the PML-N leader.

Shahbaz had arrived at the court in an armoured vehicle, under heavy security. The squad that escorted Shahbaz to the court also included a fire engine, a rescue van and scores of security officers.

Contingents of police, which were posted inside and outside the court, refused to let PML-N leaders and workers inside the building. Only Shahbaz’s son, Hamza, and party leaders Malik Ahmed Ehsan and Malik Ahmed Khan, were allowed inside the courtroom.

Talking to the media outside the court building, Marriyum Aurangzeb accused the government of “using” NAB “to take political revenge.”

“The government has thought that PML-N would break. It thought that the brothers [Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif] will be separated,” she said. “They thought, and they tried, that a forward block be formed in the party.”

Shahbaz is the younger brother of former premier Nawaz Sharif, who was disqualified from his position in 2017 over corruption charges.

The PML-N says that the arrest of Shehbaz Sharif was intended to weaken the party before by-elections to be held on Oct.14.

The by-elections are for 11 parliamentary seats and 19 provincial assembly seats.

The voting could affect the slim majority Khan’s coalition government holds in parliament, though many of the constituencies are considered strongholds of his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

The contests are considered to be closer in the provincial assemblies and could result in the PML-N winning back control of Punjab.

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