The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader was on his way to attend a press conference, accompanied by party leader Ahsan Iqbal and spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, when he was arrested from the Lahore toll plaza.
The former Premier is facing the accusation of handing over a tender worth Rs 220 billion in 2013 to a company in which he was a shareholder himself. At the time, he was the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources.
Abbasi is also named in the Exit Control List (ECL). He is the latest high-profile member of the opposition PML-N party to be arrested in Prime Minister Imran Khan's "accountability" drive.
Abbasi initially resisted the arrest but eventually conceded. He was shifted to the anti-corruption body's lock-up in Lahore after a medical check-up, Dawn newspaper reported.
Abbasi was scheduled to appear before the NAB on Thursday in the case, but he did not appear before the bureau, leading to his arrest.
According to the watchdog's arrest warrant, Abbasi is accused of commission of the offence of corruption and corrupt practices under section 9 (a) of National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
The warrant also stated that the former Prime Minister will be presented in the court for "such period as may be necessary for finalization of the investigation".
PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, also facing cases by NAB, condemned the arrest, stating that the anti-graft body was being used for "political victimization".
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's daughter and party leader Maryam Nawaz tweeted: "Another Prime Minister appointed by your votes arrested. Will this injustice, insult be faced by those elected by your votes."
PML-N spokesperson Mariyum Aurangzeb said NAB arrested Abbasi without an arrest warrant and added that his arrest was "highly expected from the Imran Khan-led federal government", the Express Tribune reported.
Party leader Ahsan Iqbal said that the name of NAB should be changed to "PML-N Accountability Bureau".
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is already serving a seven-year jail term in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case -- filed in the wake of the apex court's July 28, 2017 order in the Panama Papers case.
His brother and former Chief Minister of Punjab province, Shehbaz Sharif, was also arrested in October on corruption charges. Other members of the Sharif family have been held on similar charges.
Opposition Pakistan Peoples' Party's co-Chairman and former President Asif Ali Zardari is also in NAB custody in fake bank accounts case.