Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shahbaz have been acquitted in a money laundering case of Rs 16 billion. The Lahore High Court ruled after a lengthy hearing that no direct transactions were made from the benami account to the bank accounts of PM Shahbaz and his son Hamza. This case against Shahbaz Sharif was registered in 2021 in connection with the sugar mill scam during Imran Khan’s tenure as Prime Minister. In this case, Shahbaz Sharif had to go to jail despite being the Leader of the Opposition in the Pakistani Parliament. Now Imran Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has alleged that the government is turning decisions in its favor by doing politics of pressure. At the same time, Shahbaz’s party PML-N has said that this is the victory of truth and lies have been exposed. Judge Ejaz Hasan Awan of the Lahore High Court delivered the reserved verdict a day earlier.One son of Shahbaz was declared a fugitive
During Tuesday’s hearing, Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had told the court that there was no direct transaction from benami (anonymous) accounts to the bank accounts of PM Shahbaz and his son. In November 2020, the FIA had registered a case against Shahbaz and his two sons, Hamza and Suleman, under sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and 109 of the Money Laundering Act. After the registration of the case, Suleman fled from Pakistan to avoid arrest. After this, Suleman was declared a fugitive by the Pakistani court due to his continuous absence from the trial proceedings.
Shahbaz Sharif expressed happiness over the court’s decision
After the High Court’s decision, Shahbaz Sharif expressed happiness on Twitter. He wrote that thanks to Allah for the victory in the false, baseless and political vendetta-based case of money laundering. “Today we have been proved right before the court, the law and the country,” he said. Talking to Dawn News, PML-N leader Talal Chowdhury called the verdict a victory for the PML-N. He claimed that it was a fake case and it was bound to be exposed one day or the other. Meanwhile, in a tweet on its official Twitter account, the PML-N said that “another concocted case of political harassment has come to a definite end.
What happened in Wednesday’s hearing
At the beginning of the hearing on Wednesday, Amjad Parvez, counsel for PM Shehbaz and former Punjab Chief Minister Hamza, requested the court to grant one more exemption to the Prime Minister from the hearing due to his unavoidable official engagements. The court had allowed a similar request on Tuesday. Parvez told Judge Awan that none of the witnesses recorded testimony against the PM or his son. He accused the investigating officer of trying to distort the statements of the witnesses. He slammed the FIA, saying the agency created cases on the basis of enmity. He claimed that the prosecution has not been able to produce any evidence so far on the bribery allegation.
What did the FIA argue?
Advocate Farooq Bajwa, appearing for the FIA, told the court that Masroor Anwar, the suspect in the case, was operating the bank account of Shahbaz Sharif. All these benami accounts were operated by the employees of Ramzan Sugar Mill. He said the account of another suspect, Gulzar Ahmed, continued to operate even after his death. “Do you have any evidence to substantiate your statement,” the judge asked. Bajwa replied that there is no evidence in this regard in the available records. After hearing the arguments of both the sides, the judge reserved his decision in the matter. On Tuesday, the judge initially asked the prosecutor how many bank accounts were operated at Ramzan Sugar Mills in the name of Malik Maqsood Ahmed, a peon who died while absconding in the United Arab Emirates. The prosecutor said that eight bank accounts of Maqsood Ahmed were mentioned in the challan. However, he said there was no evidence of direct deposits or withdrawals in the bank accounts of Shahbaz and Hamza.