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16.10.2018 11:58 News >> Pakistan: Main Opposition Leader's Remand Extended

Pakistan: Main Opposition Leader's Remand Extended

Shehbaz Sharif, main opposition leader and brother of former Premier Nawaz Sharif, is facing inquiry into housing scam.

A Pakistani court on Tuesday extended the remand of the country's main opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif for ten days, in connection with a housing scam, court record and local media said.

An accountability court in northeastern Lahore city accepted the request of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) -- a state-run corruption watchdog -- for an extension in the physical remand as the investigators required some more time.

The NAB authorities alleged that Sharif -- a three-time chief minister of the country's largest Punjab province -- was not cooperating with the investigators.

However, Sharif rejected the claim and accused the NAB and the government of "victimization", local broadcaster Geo News reported.

Dozens of the opposition leader's supporters gathered outside the courtroom and chanted slogans in his favor and against the government. Some of them tried to enter the already packed courtroom propelling the police to baton charge to hold them off.

Sharif, the younger brother of three-time Premier Nawaz Sharif, was taken into custody by the NAB in Lahore earlier this month in connection with a housing scam. Later, the court had remanded him in the NAB's custody for ten days.

Sharif, who is also head of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party, is accused of granting illegal contracts to his favorites for the construction of low-cost houses for the poor and middle-class in Punjab -- the country's political power base, and a stronghold of the PML(N).

Marriyum Aurangzeb, a PML(N) spokesperson, told reporters outside the court that the investigators had failed to collect any evidence against her detained leader, "that's why they are asking for more time."

Sharif's arrest came days before last Sunday's crucial by-elections in which the PML(N) captured several seats from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, mainly in Punjab.

Sharif's elder brother Nawaz Sharif has already been disqualified for life, and given a 10-year jail term in a corruption case. However, Islamabad's High Court last month suspended the jail term, and granted bail to the former three-time premier.

The PML(N), for its part, rebutted the corruption allegations, calling the arrests of its leaders "political vendetta."

Established by former military ruler retired Gen. Pervez Musharraf in 2000, the NAB has often been accused of targeting anti-government politicians.

A rare meeting last month between Prime Minister Imran Khan and NAB Chairman Javed Iqbal also raised eyebrows as the first-time premier is also facing an NAB probe over alleged illegal use of government helicopters. -



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