Pakistan opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif arrested in money laundering case

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Lahore: Pakistan’s top Opposition leader and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif was arrested by the country’s anti-graft body Monday. This development happened after a court rejected the bail plea of Shahbaz Sharif in a money laundering case.

The development comes just ahead of the planned protests next month by his party – the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) . The protests are being organised to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Shahbaz is the leader of the opposition and the younger brother of three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He was taken into custody from the Lahore High Court’s premises. A large number of PML-N workers had gathered there gathered ahead of the hearing in the Rs 700 crore (USD 41.9 million) money laundering case.

The anti-graft body – National Accountability Bureau (NAB) – took Shahbaz to its detention centre here, It will now produce him to the accountability court for his physical remand.

Earlier, a two-member LHC bench headed by Sardar Ahemd Naeem rejected Shahbaz’s his bail after hearing the arguments from the NAB’s team and his lawyer. The Imran Khan government last week filed the money laundering case against 69-year-old Shahbaz and his family. He had served as chief minister of Punjab province from 2008 to 2018.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior and Accountability Shahzad Akbar last week alleged that Shahbaz and his sons – Hamza and Salman – were involved in money laundering through fake accounts.

Akbar said the financial monitoring unit had detected 177 suspicious transactions of Shahbaz’s family after which NAB started a probe. He alleged that crores of rupees were laundered through employees of the companies owned by Shahbaz and his children.

Akbar accused Shahbaz and Hamza of taking kickbacks and commissions in return for party tickets and projects to favourites.

Before his arrest, Shahbaz told the media that Khan wanted to have him arrested. “It is the unholy alliance of Imran Khan and NAB that wanted to put me behind bars,” Shahbaz said.

Reacting to his arrest, PML-N spokesperson Maryam Nawaz said Shahbaz has been arrested only because he did not leave his elder brother. Alleging that it was a political victimisation by the government, she said, “This politics of vengeance cannot dampen the spirits of our workers.”