LHC bench recuses itself from hearing Hamza’s bail plea

LAHORE: A Lahore High Court two-judge bench on Tuesday recused itself from the bail matter of Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz after he expressed reservations on it in the light of a controversial media interview of NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal.

The bench comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem was hearing arguments of Mr Hamza’s counsel in Ramzan Sugar Mills case when the opposition leader came to the rostrum and sought permission to address the court personally.

On being allowed to speak, Mr Hamza said he had grave reservations regarding the NAB as its chairman gave a controversial interview to the media. He said the bureau’s chairman claimed that the bench of the high court hearing NAB-related cases had been changed and managed.

He said the chairman stated in his interview that he (Mr Iqbal) would not let Mr Hamza hide behind the relief of bail any longer and would be arrested soon.

Mr Hamza said the NAB chairman expressed his personal views about judicial proceedings against him and his father Shahbaz Sharif.

PA opp leader raps ‘selective’ accountability

He said the chairman of the anti-graft watchdog made the bail proceedings before the high court controversial by claiming to have managed formation of the bench. He said the whole nation had been questioning whether the NAB chairman was so powerful that he could influence formation of the high court benches.

The opposition leader said he had great respect for the courts as he returned to the country before the given deadline leaving his newborn ailing daughter in the ICU of a hospital in London.

“I am not scared of being arrested,” said Mr Hamza and asked the bench to refer the matter to any other bench to protect integrity of the court.

After hearing the contention of Mr Hamza, the bench rose for consultation and reassembled after a short break.

Justice Najafi announced that the request of Mr Hamza had been accepted and referred the matter to the chief justice for its fixation before any other appropriate bench. The bench also extended the pre-arrest bail of Mr Hamza till next hearing before the new bench.

Earlier, adjournment requests were submitted on behalf of advocates Salman Aslam Butt and Azam Nazir Tarar, the counsel for Mr Hamza in money laundering and assets beyond means cases, respectively.

Advocate Amjad Pervez, who represents Hamza in the sugar mills case, was also present in the court when the hearing was resumed. The bench postponed the hearing and assembled again when Mr Pervez appeared after a while.

The bench heard arguments of the defence and the prosecution almost for an hour before Hamza Shahbaz expressed his distrust over it.

Later, speaking at a press conference, Mr Hamza also lashed out at the NAB and called for an inquiry into the video leak and controversial interview of its chairman by a parliamentary committee. He said his party did not want removal of the NAB chairman, but the parliament should reveal the truth.

Targeting the NAB for its “selective” accountability, the opposition leader questioned the silence of the bureau on the alleged corruption of the prime minister’s sister and federal minister Faisal Vawda. He claimed that the prime minister wanted the NAB to arrest the whole opposition.

He said all the lies Imran Khan told the nation from the container were being exposed now. “There will be no more selective accountability,” he added.

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