Hamza Shahbaz
Hamza Shahbaz waving to his supporters at the time of his arrest in the Lahore High Court premises Image Credit: social media

Dubai: Major political drama continues for the second consective day in Pakistan as Hamza Shahbaz, Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly, was arrested today (Tuesday), a day after former president Asif Ali Zardari was taken in to custody.

Hamza was taken into custody from the court premise by officials of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) after the Lahore High Court rejected his interim bail in the Ramzan Sugar Mills and the money laundering cases, Geo TV reported. Sudden surge in crackdown against politicians belonging to opposition parties have raised many a eyebrows as more arrests are expected in the days to come.

Who is Hamza Sharif

Hamza Sharif is the son of Shahbaz Sharif, former Chief Minister of Punjab. He is nephew of Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister of Pakistan who is also currently in jail facing corruption charges. Hamza is an infuential political leader of PML-N and the Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly of Pakistan.

A two-member bench comprising Justice Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Shahid Waheed Khan heard petitions of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader as he appeared before the LHC following the expiration of his interim bail expired today.

During the hearing, NAB’s Additional Prosecutor General Jahanzeb Bharwana told the court that Hamza’s assets do not match with his income and that the PML-N leader and his family are involved in money laundering.

The court after hearing NAB’s arguments rejected Hamza’s plea for an extension for his interim bail. Following the arrest, PML-N workers are protesting at the GPO Chowk in Lahore and have blocked traffic.

According to NAB, Hamza will now be presented in an accountability court on Wednesday. Hamza, along with his father Opposition Leader in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif were indicted in the Ramzan Sugar Mills case on April 9.

The National Accountability Bureau in February had filed a reference against the two alleging that the former chief minister of Punjab misused his authority by using public funds for the construction of a bridge to facilitate the Ramzan mills, owned by his sons.

Reacting to the arrest, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said the government is arresting opposition members to hide its incompetence.

“These arrests are political revenge”, he said.

Speaking to media before his interim bail was rejected, Hamza said: “I told the Pakistani nation that I have not done any corruption. I have challenged NAB that if they can prove even a penny worth of corruption against me, I will leave politics.”

He further said, “NAB chairman has ordered my arrest. It remains to be seen whether NAB will arrest me or justice will prevail. Prison is not new for me.”

Opposition gets ready for protests

Hamza’s arrest comes on a day when Pakisan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s governemnt is going to present its first federal budget. The arrests of the PPP leader Zardari and Hamza are also being linked to crush the protest campaign which the opposition parties were jointly planning against the government aftert the federal budget. Both the PPP and the PML-N in cooperdination with other political parties in the opposition have joined hands to launch protest campaigns across the country against the Imran’s government. Imran’s government has come under sharp criticism during the last few months due to massive prize hike, devaluation of rupee, unemployment and the deterirating economic situation. The opposition parties have also allleged his government for selective accountability against their leaders.