Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly, has been arrested by NAB in Ashiana Housing case only days before important by-elections on 30 vacant seats in national and provincial assemblies. Sharif was in NAB’s office in connection with SAAF Paani project probe when he was taken into custody. NAB is within its right to make the arrest provided it has genuine reasons.
Over the last few months NAB has been under mounting pressure from the SC for its failure to deliver. The apex court had been expressing dissatisfaction with NAB’s performance in various cases.
Last month it threw out as ‘frivolous’ NAB’s petition which challenged the Islamabad High Court’s decision to hear an appeal by the Sharif family against the Avenfield verdict. The apex court fined the anti-graft watchdog Rs20,000. Last week the SC wondered if there was a single case that NAB had wound up.
The IHC granted bail to Nawz Sharif, Maryam and Safdar on the ground that the conviction and sentences handed to the former prime minister and others in the Avenfield case “may not be ultimately sustainable”.
In other words the judgment by the accountability court might not stand. A judgment based on inadequate evidence provided by NAB can do irreparable loss to the reputation of a major political leader besides sending him to jail. Even if the faulty judgment is ultimately turned down by a higher court, the damage cannot be undone.
The reckless way the NAB has at times moved against the PML-N has been considered an outcome of malice by many. In May NAB turned itself into a laughing stock when it announced at a press conference that DG NAB had ordered a probe against Nawaz Sharif for laundering $4.9 billion to India.
The enquiry was based on a column published in a little known paper three months back. The World Bank refuted the report; the local media made fun of the probe. Questions were raised about motives behind the enquiry.
In case the NAB fails to prove the case against Shehbaz Sharif its credibility would nosedive. Also, while the reaction of senior PML-N leaders, including Hamza Sharif, is understandable. But Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary’s claim, that more arrests are likely to follow, raises a number of questions and lends credence to claims that PTI is politically victimising PML-N.