Nawaz’s indictment deferred to Oct 9; warrants issued for children

Accountability Court-I adjourns hearing of three corruption cases against Sharifs until October 9

ISLAMABAD: The accountability court hearing three corruption references against the Sharif family issued on Monday non-bailable arrest warrants for Nawaz Sharif's sons and son-in-law. 

Meanwhile, the court re-issued bailable arrest warrants for Nawaz's daughter, Maryam. 

Khawaja Harris, Nawaz's counsel, informed the court during the hearing that the Sharif children are busy tending to their mother in London and will appear in court once she is better. 

After Nawaz's appearance before the court, Mohsin Ranjha, a member of his legal team, briefed the media. He said the former premier's indictment has been deferred to October 9, the next date of hearing. 

He added that the court has been assured that Maryam and her husband MNA Capt (retd) Safdar will appear in court.

He further said that Nawaz's request of exemption from personal appearance is also yet to be deliberated upon. 

Earlier, when Nawaz arrived at the court, around 2,000 personnel of the police and Rangers had been deployed in and around the judicial complex in Sector G-11 where the court is located.  

Nawaz was accompanied by his political aide, Senator Asif Kirmani, and only his vehicle was allowed to enter the complex. 

Media representatives, as well as supporters of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and members of the government, were barred from entering the judicial complex. 

This resulted in a delay of other hearings scheduled inside the complex, as lawyers and litigants were also barred from entering. 

Interior minister not allowed to enter 

When Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal reached the complex, he too was barred by the Rangers from entering. Upon this, he ordered for the Rangers' commander, a Brigadier-ranked officer, to come out of the courtroom and discuss the matter with him. 

Several other senior government officials, including Federal Railways Minister Saad Rafique, Federal Privatisation Minister Daniyal Aziz, Senator Pervaiz Rasheed, State Interior Minister Talal Chaudhry, State CADD Minister Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, MNA Maiza Hameed and Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Ansar Aziz, were not allowed to enter the complex. However, later, Daniyal and Maiza were escorted inside by a security official. 

Nawaz then left the court for Punjab House. 

I did not summon Rangers: Judge

Later, in a meeting with a delegation of court reporters, Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir said he is unaware who ordered the Rangers to deploy at the court complex. 

He assured the media personnel that he would ensure arrangements are made so they can attend the next hearing.

The Sharif family is facing references pertaining to their London apartments, Azizia Steel Mills and offshore companies filed against them by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

In the last hearing, the ousted prime minister was provided copies of references against him.

On September 26, the court had also issued bailable arrest warrants for his children and son-in-law as they failed to appear before it, despite two earlier summons.

At the hearing, Nawaz's counsel, Khawaja Harris, pleaded the court to exempt his client from personal appearance. However, the judge observed that the matter would be deliberated upon once Nawaz has been indicted.

However, speaking to supporters in Lahore on Sunday, Sharif said his children would return from London and appear before the court once his wife's health improves. He made the remarks after visiting the grave of his father along with his brother Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

The former prime minister also held consultations with his political and legal aides on various issues after arriving in Islamabad on Sunday evening.

Nawaz's appearance in court will follow the indictment of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar by the same judge last week in a reference pertaining to his owning 'assets beyond his known sources of income'.

Reports also state that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will also hold meetings of its central working committee and general council today to appoint Nawaz as the party's president after his removal from office.

Last week, the PML-N managed to amend the Electoral Reforms Bill 2017 in the opposition-controlled Senate in favour of Nawaz's bid to become the party president. The bill will now be taken up by the Lower House of Parliament, where the PML-N holds a majority, on Monday (today).

The references

NAB had in total filed three references against the Sharif family and one against Dar in the accountability court, in light of the Supreme Court's orders in the Panama Papers case verdict of July 28.

The anti-graft body was given six weeks, from the date of the apex court's order, to file the reference in an accountability court while the accountability court was granted six months to wrap up the proceedings.

The references against the Sharif family pertain to the Azizia Steel Mills, their London properties and over dozen offshore companies.

NAB's Rawalpindi branch prepared two references regarding the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, and the nearly dozen companies owned by the Sharif family.

Its Lahore branch prepared a reference on the Sharif family's Avenfield apartments in London and another against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for owning assets beyond his known sources of income.

If convicted, the accused may face up to 14 years imprisonment and lifelong disqualification from holding public office including the freezing of bank accounts and assets.