Shahbaz Sharif remanded in 10-day NAB custody in Ashiana housing scam

An accountability court in Lahore on Saturday granted 10-day physical remand of PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme case.

Shahbaz — who was taken into custody by the NAB on Friday — was produced before an accountability court in Lahore today.

The PML-N leader was arrested by the anti-graft body in the Rs14 billion Ashiana-i-Iqbal housing project scam yesterday, when he was called in for interrogation.

The hearing today was originally scheduled to take place inside the chamber but was later switched to open court following the PML-N lawyers' protest.

"I did not do any illegal work," Shabaz is quoted as saying during the hearing. "[I] have always worked for the prosperity of this country.

"We recovered millions from those who had looted [the country] and deposited to the national treasury," he added.

Shabaz leaves the accountability court following the hearing. — DawnNewsTV
Shabaz leaves the accountability court following the hearing. — DawnNewsTV

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.

The NAB had sought a 14-day physical remand of the former Punjab CM. However, the court granted the corruption watchdog 10-day remand instead.

Prior to the hearing, NAB prosecutor Waris Ali Janjua told DawnNewsTV that the accountability watchdog will request for a 14-day physical remand of the PML-N leader.

See: A timeline of developments in the Ashiana housing 'scam'

Police vans stand outside accountability court building. — DawnNewsTV
Police vans stand outside accountability court building. — DawnNewsTV

Earlier, Sharif arrived at the court in an armoured vehicle, under heavy security according to DawnNewsTV.

The security squad that escorted Shahbaz to the accountability court also included a fire brigade vehicle, a rescue van and security officers, DawnNewsTV reported.

Hamza Shahbaz arrives at accountability court.

Contingents of police, that were posted inside and outside the accountability court, refused to let PML-N leaders and workers inside the building. However, PML-N president's son, Hamza Shahbaz, along with party leaders Malik Ahmed Ehsan and Malik Ahmed Khan, were allowed inside the courtroom.

Party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb and Pervez Malik chanted slogans with PML-N workers that had gathered outside the court building as early as 7 in the morning. On Shahbaz's arrival, the emotionally charged workers climbed up on the armoured vehicle, chanting slogans in Shahbaz's favour and were forced to get off by the police.

To calm the party workers, Hamza directed them to "respect the court and not chant slogans inside the court".

PML-N cries foul, terms Shahbaz's arrest as "revenge"

Talking to the media outside the accountability court building earlier, Aurangzeb had accused the government of "using NAB to take political revenge".

"They [government] had thought that PML-N would break. They thought that brothers (Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif) will be separated," she said. "They thought, and they tried, that a forward block will be formed in the party."

Yesterday, former premier Nawaz termed Shahbaz's arrest as "not just regrettable, but also ridiculous" and accused the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government of being responsible for "this worse kind of revenge".

Allegations against Shahbaz

According to a NAB notice sent to the former Punjab chief minister on January 16, 2018, Shahbaz is accused of ordering the cancellation of award of contract of Ashiana-i-Iqbal to successful bidder Chaudhry Latif and Sons, leading to award of the contract to Lahore Casa Developers, a proxy group of Paragon City Private Limited, which resulted in the loss of approximately Rs193 million.

He is also accused of directing the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) to assign the Ashiana-i-Iqbal project to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), resulting in the award of contract to the Lahore Casa developers, causing the loss of Rs715m and the ultimate failure of the project.

NAB has also accused Shahbaz of directing the PLDC to award the consultancy services of the Ashiana-i-Iqbal project to Engineering Consultancy Services Punjab (ECSP) for Rs 192m while the actual cost was supposed to be Rs35m as quoted by Nespak.

On Dawn’s query seeking details about grounds of his arrest, NAB spokesperson Nawazish Ali Asim said: “Grounds of arrest will be presented before the accountability court on Saturday.”

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