LAHORE: On Saturday, the Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz was released after spending 20 months in jail in relation to a National Bureau of Accountability (NAB) inquiry over money laundering.
THe Pakistan Mulsim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader was released after the order was issued by the accountability court’s duty judge Akmal Khan after the surety bonds deposited by the PML-N leader were verified. PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz arrived outside Kot Lakhpat Jail to receive her cousin.
Hamza Shahbaz addressed party workers after his release saying that the government, despite being in power for nearly three years, could not prove that the PML-N leaders were involved in a “penny of corruption”. He added that the ruling Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) was lying about any proof against the opposition. “They ask for cuts from [Broadsheet] officials,” he said while criticising the government.
The occasion marked an important event for the PML-N, as the party had set up 12 different camps across Lahore to welcome the leader after a detention of 20 months. Arrangements were made to welcome the PML-N leader from Kot Lakhpat Jail and bring him back to his residence in the form of a rally.
PML-N workers carrying drums and showering rose petals danced and celebrated for hours outside the jail in anticipation of his release.
Earlier this week, Hamza Shahbaz was granted bail by the Lahore High Court (LHC) after 20 months behind bars. Hamza Shahbaz was arrested on June 11, 2019, in a case filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) regarding money laundering after 20 months behind bars.
A two-judge bench of the LHC ordered the jail authorities to release Hamza Shahbaz after the submission of bail bonds. The order came after the counsel for NAB completed the plaintiff’s arguments in the hearing today. LHC had directed that Hamza be released after submission of two bail bonds of Rs1m each.
The PML-N leader had filed a second petition before the court for post-arrest bail on merit. Additionally, grounds of hardship and inordinate delay in the trial proceedings were also cited as a merit for the bail. Previously in January, the Supreme Court denied the petition for bail, directing the plaintiff to approach the LHC with fresh grounds for bail.
The petition filed through advocates Azam Nazir Tarar and Amjad Pervaiz stated that the charges by NAB were framed on Nov 11, 2020, after a period of “unconscionable delay” of 17 months after the arrest. It said the delay could not be attributed to the petitioner in any manner whatsoever. It argued that the petitioner was entitled to bail on this ground of delay alone without touching the merits of the case.
PML-N deputy secretary general Attaullah Tarar termed the decision a “victory”.