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Shahbaz moves LHC for bail

LAHORE: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif on Tuesday approached the Lahore High Court for grant of bail in the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme case, 47 days after an accountability court sent him on judicial remand.

Under the law, a suspect can seek bail soon after being sent on judicial remand by the trial court. Mr Sharif was sent on judicial remand after the accountability court on Dec 6 last year denied the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) request for further physical remand. The bureau had kept Mr Sharif in custody for 62 days since his arrest on Oct 5, 2018.

Former Punjab chief minister Sharif is charged with misuse of authority by unlawfully assuming powers of the board of directors of the Punjab Land Deve­lopment Company (PLDC), and awarding a contract to an ineligible proxy firm that resulted in the failure of the Ashiyana housing scheme. The scam caused a loss to the public exchequer and deprived 61,000 applicants of houses.

It is also alleged that Mr Sharif’s directive to entrust the project of a housing scheme to the Lahore Development Authority from the PLDC and intervention into affairs of the company was in violation of the Companies Ordinance, Memorandum and Article of Association and Corpo­rate Governance Rules 2013.

NAB alleged that the former chief minister through his unlawful acts and misuse of authority caused a loss of Rs660 million to the exchequer and the overall project cost Rs3.39 billion.

However, in his bail petition filed through Advocate Amjad Pervez, Mr Sharif denied all these charges as false and frivolous.

The counsel has sought relief of bail on 30 grounds, including one on medical reasons saying that the petitioner — who is more than 67 years old — had left-sided sciatica since 1994 due to which he had to exercise regularly and needed physiotherapy.

The advocate said that since the arrest of the petitioner, medical boards had examined Mr Sharif twice and his lab reports were shared with his personal doctor in England, who had advised further clinical examination in London.

He said that as per blood test reports, Mr Sharif’s tumour marker Chromogranin-A had been found to be elevated and a CT scan revealed new development of small but significant lesion in the lateral limb of left adrenal and thickening of the pyloric wall of the stomach.

The lawyer pleaded that although some of the tests had been carried out, the facility of the most important test namely “DOTA Octreotide Scan” was not available in Pakistan. He argued that Mr Sharif’s case needed to be considered on compassionate and humanitarian grounds as his detention may put his life in jeopardy.

On merits of the case, the counsel stated that the implication of the petitioner was prompted by mala fide intention on the part of the prosecution as he was neither nominated nor attributed to any role on the basis of which NAB started proceedings.

He said it was a matter of record that the petitioner had submitted written replies to all call-up notices issued by NAB, appeared before the court when required and furnished whatever information was sought. Yet, the lawyer contended, the NAB chairman proceeded to issue his arrest warrants against the settled law that the arrest was not desirable even in the most heinous offences as long as the suspect extended cooperation.

Denying the charges against Mr Sharif, the counsel contended that the option of exploring Public-Private Partnership mode was in good faith and had a complete background. He said there was nothing on record to show any dissent or reservation by anyone whosoever in the hierarchy. He said the contract in question was also terminated by the PLDC Board itself on April 17, 2017.

He argued that no money from the public exchequer was either paid or was due under the contract, nor any government land was transferred. Mr Pervez added that no funds had been raised and no transaction either monetary or otherwise had taken place.

The lawyer explained that as per the contract, the developer was to develop the project land and to construct apartments using his own funds and labour without contribution from the public exchequer. The developer, he said, was entitled to the transfer of land as consideration of the construction of apartments, and since no progress was made in the regard the contract was cancelled. Hence, said Mr Pervez, the question of any monetary loss whatsoever did not arise at all.

The counsel pleaded that the prosecution’s case based upon documentary evidence — which was already in its possession — and the investigation to the extent of the petitioner stood completed so Mr Sharif’s further confinement would not serve any purpose.

A two-judge bench, comprising Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan and Justice Mirza Viqas Rauf, will take up the bail petition on Wednesday (today).

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