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pakistan
Friday Nov 03 2017
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Court adjourns corruption hearing against Nawaz, family in light of IHC order

ISLAMABAD: The accountability court hearing corruption cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family on Friday adjourned proceedings in light of Thursday's order of the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

The IHC had directed the accountability court to re-hear Nawaz's plea seeking to club the three references against him. 

Nawaz arrived at the court along with his daughter Maryam after departing from the Punjab House earlier to attend the hearing. His son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar had also arrived at the court earlier. 

As the hearing began, Judge Mohammad Bashir briefly adjourned proceedings as the court was yet to receive a copy of Thursday's IHC order.

Nawaz's counsel Khawaja Harris argued before the court that they need time to prepare their case in light of the detailed IHC order, which is yet to be issued.

The judge then adjourned the case until November 7 and suspended the summons issued to two prosecution witnesses — Sidra Mansoor of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and Jahangir Khan of Inland Revenue Department.

Nawaz Sharif departs for the hearing from Punjab House
 

The court will, thus, first decide Nawaz's plea to club the references and then the regular proceedings of the case will move forward. 

Nawaz also submitted in court today surety bonds worth Rs5 million each for the Flagship and Azizia Steel Mills references. 

He has already submitted Rs5 million surety bond in the Avenfield properties reference. 

The accountability court is hearing corruption references filed by NAB against Nawaz and his family members, as well as Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, in light of the Supreme Court's July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case.

Following the hearing, Nawaz returned to Punjab House from where he proceeded to his estate in Jati Umra, Lahore. 

Clubbing of references

On Thursday, a two-member IHC bench accepted Nawaz's petition challenging the accountability court's dismissal of his plea to club the three references.

The IHC ordered the accountability court to hear the plea again and then give an order on it in accordance with the relevant laws.

In his petition, Nawaz has pleaded the IHC to declare the October 19 decision illegal and order the accountability court to combine the three references against him into one.

Nawaz returns to Pakistan

Nawaz was absent from several previous hearings as he was in London tending to his wife, Kulsoom, who is undergoing treatment for lymphoma in London. 

This was Nawaz's first appearance following his indictment in the Avenfield properties and Azizia Steel Mills reference on October 19, and the Flagship reference on October 20. 

At the last hearing on October 26, the court had issued bailable warrants for Nawaz's arrest. 

The former premier returned to the country on Thursday and was served the court summons by a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) team. 

Strict security arrangements were in place in and around the Federal Judicial Complex where the hearing was taking place. 

A number of workers of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz were present at the complex to welcome their party president. 

Similarly, senior leaders of the party, including members of the cabinet, were at the premises in light of the former premier's appearance.

The NAB references

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.

Maryam and Safdar are only nominated in the London properties reference. At an earlier 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.

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.