PM Shehbaz's plea for permanent exemption from court appearance approved

Usman Ahmed Bhatti
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. — Twitter/File
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. — Twitter/File

  • PM Shehbaz appears before court in Ashiana Housing scheme, Ramazan Sugar Mill cases.
  • NAB's prosecutor had opposed the prime minister’s plea.
  • CM Hamza did not appear before the accountability court in the Ramzan Sugar Mills.

LAHORE: An accountability court on Monday approved Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's plea for a permanent exemption from personal appearance in a case relating to the Ashiana Housing project. He cited "national responsibilities" as the reason for wanting an exemption.

During the hearing in the cases related to the Ashiana Housing project and the Ramazan Sugar Mills, PM Shehbaz and former Lahore Development Authority (LDA) chairman Ahad Khan Cheema appeared before the accountability court.

At the outset of today’s hearing, when the judge called the premier to the rostrum, the premier said: “Whenever the court had summoned me, I ensured my presence as this is my duty as well as my responsibility.”

“But now, I have a huge responsibility on my shoulders,” the prime minister said, seeking permanent exemption from personal appearance to perform national duties.

Read more: PM Shehbaz Sharif, Hamza Shehbaz's bail confirmed in Rs16bn money laundering case

PM Shehbaz assured the court that he would follow the court’s order even if his application is rejected.

Expressing his views, the premier further added that he has been accused of allowing the construction of a nullah for Rs150 million.

“During my tenure as the chief minister of the province, several such nullahs were constructed across the province,” he highlighted, adding that the construction was done on the request of a local member of the provincial assembly (MP).

He went on to say that several requests are submitted and all decisions are taken after consultation among cabinet members. PM Shehbaz submitted a booklet of all development projects of Punjab during his tenure as the CM.

NAB opposes PM Shehbaz’s plea

Meanwhile, the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) prosecutor opposed the prime minister’s plea, saying that there were no solid reasons for his exemption from personal appearance in the case.

He maintained that the prime minister did not submit his medical certificate along with the application for exemption from personal appearance.

The NAB’s prosecutor also lamented that the booklet submitted by the premier wasn’t provided to the accountability bureau.

Ramzan Sugar Mills case

CM Hamza Shahbaz did not appear before the accountability court in the Ramzan Sugar Mills case as his legal team filed an application for a one-time exemption from personal appearance, saying their client was busy owing to the budget session.

"The National Accountability Court (NAB) approached the Supreme Court for revocation of my bail and the then chief justice asked where the proof of corruption was. The NAB ran away from there," Shehbaz had claimed.

PM Shehbaz and CM Hamza were indicted in the Ramzan Sugar Mills case in 2020.

Ashiana Housing case

The anti-graft watchdog has accused PM Shehbaz of misusing his powers while being the chief minister of Punjab in an inquiry pertaining to Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC).

The inquiry conducted so far reveals sufficient evidence to prove the involvement of former chief minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif "in the commission of offences as defined under section 9(a) and Schedule of the National Accountability Bureau 1999.

The inquiry conducted states that Shehbaz Sharif as the chief minister of Punjab had unlawfully assumed powers of the Board of Directors of Punjab Land and Development Company (PLDC), misused his authority and acted in connivance with Fawad Hassan Fawad who at the time was Secretary Implementation to CM Punjab and others. Contracts awarded to M/s Ch. A Latif and sons for the development and infrastructure of Ashiana Iqbal Housing Project were illegally cancelled.

As the chief minister, Shehbaz Sharif in a meeting on October 21, 2014 unlawfully directed PLDC to entrust the project of Ashiana Iqbal Punjab to LDA. This decision of Sharif was illegal and mala fide as PLDC was the company which was established for undertaking such housing projects. Shehbaz is accused of illegally transferring this project to LDA, which was headed by his close aide Ahad Khan Cheema.

Shehbaz is also accused of working in connivance with other accused in the case and directed LDA to undertake Ashiana Iqbal Project under Public Private Partnership model. NAB states this was done in order to give “unlawful benefit to blue-eyed firm namely M/s Bismillah Engineering Service Company, which was a proxy firm to M/s Paragon City.”