Pakistan's anti-graft body arrests opposition leader

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Friday's arrest, by agents of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Lahore, involved a case of alleged corruption in a low-priced housing scheme, called Aashyana (Shelter), when Shehbaz Sharif was chief minister of Punjab province.

The hearing Saturday was originally scheduled to take place inside the judge's chamber, but was later moved to an open court following PML-N lawyers' protest. Shahbaz was allegedly involved in the corruption of Rs 14 billion Ashiana Housing project and Rs 4 billion Punjab Saaf Pani Company scams.

On July 6, the accountability court had announced the verdict in the Avenfield reference, sentencing Mr Sharif to 10 years in prison for owning assets beyond known source income and to one year for not cooperating with NAB. The bureau said that the leader misused his authority during his tenure as Punjab province's Chief Minister, Geo News reported. A source at the time said that Fawad had also provided "incriminating evidence" against the ex-chief minister in the Ashiana Housing corruption case, making it hard for him (Sharif) to defend himself before a combined investigation team of the NAB Lahore.

Shahbaz Sharif is accused of violating the Punjab Procurement Regulatory Authority rules in the award of contracts in the Saaf Pani Company affairs. A combined investigation team of the country's top anti-graft watchdog quizzed him for an hour over his alleged role in awarding contract to his "favourite firm" in violation of laws in the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal housing project. They were holding placards and banners inscribed with slogans against the arrest of party president Shahbaz Sharif.

He claimed that the national exchequer had not suffered the loss of "even a single penny" in the case in which Shahbaz was arrested today. He has fled to the United Kingdom and the NAB has written to the interior ministry to bring him back from overseas through Interpol.

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As per details garnered, Begum Nusrat Shehbaz, Hamza Shehbaz and Salman Shehbaz were also present in the meeting.

Marriyum Aurangzeb said neither government land nor funds were used in Ashiana Housing Scheme.

Sharif denies any wrongdoing, and his brother has denounced corruption cases against him and other party leaders as politically motivated.

The PM, while responding to the allegations leveled against him that the arrest of Shahbaz Sharif was a kind of political victimisation, said NAB (National Accountability Bureau) was not under his command, it is an independent organisation, and it was also summoning him in a case, he added. Mr. Nawaz was released from prison last month, pending an appeal against his conviction.

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