Friday Oct 13, 2017
ISLAMABAD: A commotion by members of the legal fraternity forced the accountability court judge hearing corruption cases against the Sharif family to adjourn Friday's proceedings minutes after they began.
The hearing has been adjourned until October 19 and it is expected former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar will be indicted then.
Maryam Nawaz and her husband MNA Capt (retd) Safdar reached the judicial complex separately Friday morning.
Senior leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), including cabinet members, were at the scene to receive the former premier's daughter.
With strict security arrangements in place, police barred non-essential personnel, including lawyers, from entering the complex.
This led to a scuffle with the police, which resulted in the injury of at least one lawyer.
As the hearing went under way, the lawyers began protesting inside the court.
They claimed the Islamabad High Court has allowed lawyers to be present inside the judicial complex as well as the accountability court as "it is an open court".
The lawyers also argued with the deputy attorney general and created a commotion, forcing Judge Mohammad Bashir to leave for his chamber and abort today's proceedings.
Later, the judge ordered the Islamabad inspector-general of police to investigate today's.
State Interior Minister Tallal Chaudhry, who was present in court, has also taken notice of the incident and ordered an inquiry.
Talking to the media, Chaudhry said the lawyer was injured outside the courtroom not inside, adding that they will ensure that such an incident does not occur in the future.
Moreover, the NAB team present in court has apprised its headquarters regarding today's incident.
NAB officials said that they were manhandled by the lawyers inside the court and the head of their prosecution team, Sardar Muzaffar, was pushed from the dais.
Indictment on October 19
The next hearing will be held on October 19, when Maryam, Safdar and Nawaz will be indicted.
The former prime minister did not appear in court today as he is in London, along with his sons, to be with his wife who is undergoing treatment for lymphoma.
The court was informed today regarding Nawaz's absence.
The former premier's legal team nominated Zafir Khan as the "pleader" — the person who will stand for Nawaz in court during his indictment.
Maryam reached Islamabad from Lahore Thursday night and is residing at the residence of Chaudhry Muneer, her daughter's father-in-law, in Sector F-6.
At the last hearing, on October 9, the accountability court approved the bail of Maryam and Safdar after they appeared in court.
Judge Mohammad Bashir also approved the National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) plea to declare Nawaz's sons, Hasan and Hussain, proclaimed offenders and separated their proceedings in the three references filed against them. Their non-bailable arrest warrants, issued at the last hearing on October 2, remain in effect.
The court also approved Nawaz's counsel Khawaja Harris's request to approve his client's exemption from appearance for that date only.
The judge set October 13 (today) as the date on which Nawaz — regardless of his presence —, Maryam and Safdar will be indicted.
On Thursday, Capt (retd) Safdar challenged his indictment process in the Islamabad High Court but the plea was deemed non-maintainable.
The accountability court is hearing a total of three corruption cases against the Sharif family filed by NAB in light of the Supreme Court's judgment in the Panama Papers case.
At the last hearing, the court also approved Maryam and Safdar's bail in the Avenfiled properties case and ordered them to submit surety bonds worth Rs5 million each.
Safdar was also directed to take the court's permission before leaving the country from now on. The judge also provided a copy of the reference — spread over 53 volumes — to Maryam and Safdar.
The NAB has in total filed three references against the Sharif family and one against Finance Minister Ishaq 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 and Hill Metals Establishment, their London properties and over dozen offshore companies owned by the family.
NAB's Rawalpindi branch prepared two references regarding the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals 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.