A Pakistani court on Wednesday granted bail to Opposition leader and PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, eight months after he was arrested in Rs 7 billion (USD 41.9 million) money laundering and assets beyond means cases. As no other case is pending against him in the court, 69-year-old Shahbaz, who served as chief minister of Punjab from 2008 to 2018, will be freed from the Kot Lakhpat jail Lahore following his bail in both cases.
The Lahore High Court (LHC) granted bail to the younger brother of deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif after hearing arguments from the defence and prosecution. The court directed Shahbaz to submit two surety bonds worth PKR 5 million each. The country’s anti-graft body National Accountability Bureau had alleged that Shahbaz’s family had assets of around PKR 16.5 million till 1990, which increased to over PKR 7 billion in 2018 which were disproportionate to his known sources of income. The NAB has already file a case against Shahbaz in the accountability court. Shahbaz’s counsel told the court that since no investigation was pending against him in these cases as the NAB had already filed a case against him, he should be granted bail.
Shabaz is accused of beneficiary of assets held in the name of his family members and ‘benamidars’ (in whose name a benami property is standing) who had no sources to acquire such assets. Benami properties are those in which the real beneficiary is not the one in whose name the property has been purchased. The grant of the bail came at a very crucial time. The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), after huffing and puffing about divisions within its ranks, has finally found nothing better than to request PPP and ANP to review their decisions to leave the alliance. That alone speaks volumes about its anti-state and anti-establishment narrative that has clearly been running out of steam for quite a while now.
Yet so far JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman has found a reliable ally in PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz because she seems to share his kind of hatred and poison for the so-called establishment. And Shahbaz’s return to the scene could now dilute PML-N’s hawkish position because he doesn’t share his elder brother’s and niece’s extremist views that make indulging in politics a zero sum game for the opposition. He has always been more flexible and favoured reconciliation over confrontation with the powers that be. This means that we could be in for a power struggle, of sorts, within PML-N as well; pretty much like what has happened within PDM over the last fortnight or so.