–LHC bench orders release of PML-N VP on surety bonds worth Rs20m, deposit of additional Rs70m and surrender of passport
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday granted bail to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) reference.
A two-member bench of the high court comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem announced the verdict. The legal representatives of Maryam and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) were also present in the court.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader has been ordered to furnish two surety bonds worth Rs10 million each and deposit an additional Rs70 million and surrender her passport to secure her release.
“Since the prosecution has shown the bank statement of the […] petitioner in which on 28.11.2011 […] Rs7 crores were withdrawn and the prosecution has apprehension of fleeing away of the petitioner, therefore, to satisfy our judicial conscience we would pass a conditional order,” says the court’s written order, granting Maryam bail under under Article 199 of the Constitution.
PML-N supporters gathered outside the court celebrated the bench’s order while party president, Shehbaz Sharif, via a statement welcomed the decision.
He also appealed to supporters to not indulge in celebrations or distribute sweets and instead, pray for former premier Nawaz Sharif’s health.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Sherry Rehman also welcomed the court’s verdict, adding, “Hope that the PPP leadership, including President Zardari who is in custody for questioning, will also be released soon. Keeping political opponents in jail with no wrong proven is bad news.”
On PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said that bail has been given on merit not humanitarian grounds. She further said that the sum of Rs70 million has not been declared as ill-gotten money and has only been asked to be submitted as bonafide.
The two-member bench had reserved its verdict in the case on Oct 31 after both the petitioner and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had concluded their arguments.
Meanwhile, NAB has decided to challenge the verdict, saying it has concrete evidence against the PML-N VP and she is perfectly healthy. Reportedly, approver Abdullah Nasir Lotha has also recorded his statement in the case.
Maryam and her cousin Yousuf Abbas Sharif were arrested by NAB on Aug 8 in the CSM case. Later, on Sept 25, they were sent to jail on judicial remand by an accountability court in Lahore.
The accountability watchdog suspects Maryam of involvement in money laundering through investments of variable heavy amounts being the main shareholder of the mills. It has alleged that she was involved in money laundering with the help of some foreigners during the period of 1992-93 when Nawaz was the prime minister.
Maryam had approached LHC on Sept 30 seeking post-arrest bail in the case. Following the sudden deterioration in the health of her father, Nawaz Sharif, she then filed a miscellaneous petition on Oct 24 seeking immediate bail on the basis of “fundamental rights” and “humanitarian reasons”.
A two-member LHC bench comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem heard the petitions on Thursday.
During the proceedings, NAB prosecutor Jahanzaib Bharwana opposed Maryam’s request for bail on humanitarian grounds and said: “It has been established by Supreme Court’s verdicts that a suspect can only be granted bail in extraordinary circumstances,” he said, adding: “Maryam Nawaz’s case does not qualify as an extraordinary one.”
“The jail superintendent had allowed Maryam Nawaz to meet her father [according to her wishes],” Bharwana argued.
In a previous hearing of the appeal, the court had asked Maryam’s counsel if she had been granted permission to meet her ailing father Nawaz Sharif, to which her lawyer, Azam Nazir Tarar, responded in the affirmative.
Nawaz was rushed to the Services Institute of Medical Sciences (SIMS) last week after his personal physician raised alarm about his deteriorating health. He is currently admitted at the hospital.
Bharwana said that Maryam had played an “important role in money laundering” and added that a hefty amount of money was transferred from accounts opened by CSM to the petitioner.
NAB suspects Maryam of involvement in money laundering through investments of variable heavy amounts being the main shareholder of the CSM. It has alleged that she was involved in money laundering with the help of some foreigners during the period of 1992-93 when her father Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister.
The court was informed that Maryam had not been able to give satisfactory answers to NAB’s inquiries regarding her shares in CSM. She was also unable to explain how she attained the funds to establish Shamim Sugar Mills, Bharwana said.
The lawyer further said that the PML-N vice president had not filed her tax returns for many years and was suspected of owning assets beyond known means.
Maryam and her cousin Yousaf Abbas were arrested by NAB on Aug 8 in the case. Later, on Sept 26, they were sent to jail on judicial remand by an accountability court in Lahore.