Pakistan’s top opposition leader and PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif was arrested by the country’s anti-transplant agency on Monday after a court denied bail on a money laundering case.
The development comes just before his party’s planned protests – the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – next month to call for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s resignation.
Shahbaz, the opposition leader and younger brother of three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was detained on the premises of the Lahore Supreme Court where large numbers of PML-N workers gathered before the hearing on the Rs money laundering case 700 crores ($ 41.9 million).
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has taken him to the Lahore Detention Center and will take him to court for pre-trial detention.
Previously, a two-member LHC bank led by Sardar Ahemd Naeem had declined his bail after hearing the arguments of the NAB team and Shahbaz’s lawyer.
The Imran Khan government filed the money laundering case against 69-year-old Shahbaz, who served as Prime Minister of Punjab Province from 2008 to 2018, and his family last week.
Prime Minister Home Affairs and Accountability Advisor Shahzad Akbar alleged last week that Shahbaz and his sons – Hamza and Salman – were involved in money laundering through fake accounts.
Akbar said the financial watchdog discovered 177 suspicious transactions by Shahbaz’s family, after which NAB opened an investigation.
He claimed that millions of rupees were laundered by employees of Shahbaz and his children’s companies.
Akbar accused Shahbaz and Hamza of favorite setbacks and commissions in exchange for party tickets and projects.
Before his arrest, Shahbaz informed the media that Prime Minister Khan wanted him arrested.
“It’s the unholy alliance of Imran Khan and NAB that wanted to put me behind bars,” said Shahbaz.
In response to his arrest, PML-N spokeswoman Maryam Nawaz said Shahbaz was only arrested for not leaving his older brother.
Claiming it was political victimization by the government, she said, “This policy of vengeance cannot dampen the mood of our workers.”
Pakistani People’s Party leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari condemned Shehbaz’s arrest and said Prime Minister Khan was concerned after opposition parties formed an alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement, to overthrow his government.
The opposition expected a strong government response after Nawaz Sharif’s attack on the military at the multi-party conference over a week ago.
While speaking at the conference via video link from London, Sharif spoke about the army’s involvement in politics and said in the country: “There is a state above the state.”
The powerful army, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70+ years, has wielded considerable power over security and foreign policy issues.
Mr Khan said the struggle of the joint opposition is not against Khan but against those who, through rigged elections in 2018, imposed an “inefficient” man on the nation. “
Sharif, his daughter and Party Vice President Maryam and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar were convicted in the Avenfield Properties case on July 6, 2018.
Sharif, who was deposed in 2017, was sentenced to seven years in prison in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case in December 2018. In both cases, however, he was saved and allowed to go to London for medical treatment. He had eight weeks to return but did not come back for health reasons.
The opposition expects further arrests. The NAB has already issued a call to JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is also leading the campaign of the joint opposition to the government regarding incomes beyond means.
The main opposition parties in Pakistan have called for the “immediate” resignation of Prime Minister Khan and planned nationwide protests over the next month to overthrow his government.