PM Shehbaz Sharif allowed permanent exemption in Ramzan Sugar Mills reference

LAHORE, Jun 20 (APP): An accountability court on Monday allowed permanent exemption from personal appearance to Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif in Ramzan Sugar Mills reference filed by National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Accountability Court Judge Sajid Awan conducted the case proceedings, wherein the prime minister appeared and got his attendance marked. However, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz did not appear before the court as his legal team filed an application for a one-time exemption from personal appearance, saying their client was busy owing to the budget session.

During the proceedings, prime minister’s counsel Advocate Amjad Pervaiz advanced his arguments on the exemption application and argued that the court allowed the same application for permanent exemption of his client in the past.

He submitted that now Shehbaz Sharif had become prime minister and his responsibilities had increased manifold.

He submitted that his client never misused permanent exemption from personal appearance, besides requesting for appointment of a pleader to represent him under the law.

However, the NAB prosecutor opposed the exemption application of the prime minister, saying that no medical or necessary documents had been attached with the application.

He submitted that there had been no progress in trial for the past six months and if the court allowed the application then the trial would be affected. He pleaded with the court to dismiss the application.

At this stage, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also took the rostrum and sought permission to brief the court about some facts. After getting permission from the court, he submitted that he never filed an exemption application without any reason and ensured his presence whenever the court summoned him.

He requested for permanent exemption from personal appearance as being a Prime Minister, he had huge responsibility on his shoulders. He assured the court that he would follow the court’s order even if his application was rejected.

PM Shehbaz Sharif submitted that when he was chief minister Punjab, he had always preferred the welfare of masses. He submitted that he preferred the interests of sugarcane growers rather than the sugar mills while determining prices of sugarcane.

The prime minister submitted that he was accused of constructing a drain at a cost of Rs 150 million.

He said that the drain was constructed on an application of the MPA concerned and permission of cabinet was also sought for the purpose.

He submitted that similar drains worth millions of rupees were also built across the province. “We received hundreds of applications and no funds were invested without getting permission from the cabinet”, he added.

The prime minister also gave a booklet of his development works to the court, while submitting that facts of his development works were before the court and if he had to do corruption of Rs 150 or 180 million then he had not done these works. Shehbaz Sharif also gave a copy of the booklet to the NAB prosecutor after he complained that he did not have it.

He submitted that in 2014-15, a province reduced the prices of sugarcane and he was also asked to reduce the prices but he did not reduce them.

He submitted that the masses of the province benefited of his steps, adding that then the chief secretary wrote to him to export sugar to other provinces in view of increased sugar production but he rejected the summary.

He submitted that his son set up an ethanol unit but he imposed excise duty on ethanol. He submitted that the step was challenged by sugar mills in the high court but he fought the case through the advocate general.

He submitted that his family faced a loss of Rs 2.5 billion due to his steps, whereas, the PTI government withdrew the excise duty later.

Subsequently, the court allowed Shehbaz Sharif to leave the courtroom and reserved its verdict on the exemption application.

Later, after a short while, the court allowed the application and granted permanent exemption from personal appearance to the prime minister in Ramzan Sugar Mills reference and adjourned further hearing till July 5.