The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday arrested former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case from Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat prison, where he is already serving jail sentence in the Avenfield case.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo was later taken to an accountability court in the provincial capital, which handed over him to the anti-graft watchdog on a 14-day physical remand.
During the proceedings, NAB Prosecutor Hafiz Asadullah Awan alleged that in 2016 Nawaz had been the largest shareholder in the mills and had retained his shareholding in Chaudhry Sugar Mills as well as in Shamim Sugar Mills. He further alleged that Maryam Nawaz, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and other family members had also been shareholders in the mills.
After the NAB prosecutor concluded his statements, Nawaz’s counsel Advocate Amjad Pervez denied that his client had ever been a shareholder or director in the mills. “This is not the first time that Nawaz Sharif’s assets are under scrutiny,” he said, adding that opposing governments had previously also investigated the formation of the companies but nothing was found. He further said Nawaz had no role in the formation of the mills.
According to Pervez, all of Nawaz’s children had instead been directors and shareholders in the mills. “For 30 years, Nawaz has declared his assets,” he said, adding that a joint investigation team (JIT) had already investigated all the issues, after which NAB had filed a reference in Islamabad. “There is no justification for another investigation; this is a fake case,” he said.
He also argued that there was no need for the court to give NAB physical remand of the former prime minister and alleged that his client had been wrongfully arrested. “NAB’s dishonesty in the case is evident and this is just one more case being formed on political grounds,” he said, and noted that his client is already in prison and if NAB had wanted to conduct an investigation, they could have simply visited him in his cell.
Judge Chaudhry Ameer Khan questioned where Nawaz was, after which he appeared on the rostrum. In his statement before the court, the former prime minister said NAB officials visited him only once in jail and he had answered all questions he could, adding that he had not shared information which he did not have knowledge of. Nawaz said that he had requested to meet his lawyer and alleged that he was not permitted to do so.
Nawaz said he had been a minister as well as the prime minister three times and said that if corruption was proven during these time periods he would withdraw not just from the case, but from politics. “[Former dictator Gen Pervez] Musharraf created NAB for me. Musharraf had only one target which was Nawaz Sharif. NAB is only being used against PML-N and the opposition.”
As Nawaz presented his statement, supporters chanted slogans in the courtroom. The judge told him only to speak about the case.
Strict security measures were put in place, with routes leading to the accountability court being closed ahead of the PML-N leader’s appearance.
Speaking to media outside the court before his appearance, Nawaz said he fully supports JUI-F’s Azadi March, and appreciated Fazl’s spirit. “We consider Fazl’s position as our own and support it. If Maulana is protesting, then that is fine,” he said. “Maulana Fazl had suggested resignation right after the election. He had said suggested we must protest, but we had convinced him otherwise at the time. I believe we were wrong at that time,” he added.