Wednesday Nov 15, 2017
ISLAMABAD: The accountability court hearing three corruption cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family accepted on Wednesday Nawaz and his daughter's request to be exempted from personal appearance.
The two had sought exemption on the account of the medical condition of Nawaz's wife, Kulsoom, who is undergoing treatment for lymphoma in London.
The court allowed Nawaz to be exempted for a week and Maryam for a month. The starting date of the exemption period will be clarified once the written order of the court is released.
Nawaz and his family are facing three corruption references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in light of the Supreme Court's July 28 judgment in the Panama Papers case.
Nawaz and his two sons, Hussain and Hasan, are nominated in all three references whereas his daughter Maryam and her husband MNA Capt (retd) Safdar are only accused in one.
During today's hearing, two NAB witnesses recorded their statements and were cross-examined by the defence counsels.
Moreover, Hussain and Hasan Nawaz were declared proclaimed offenders due to their continuous absence.
The next hearing of the case will take place on November 22, when four more prosecution witnesses have been summoned.
Nawaz, who reached Islamabad earlier from Lahore, arrived at the court from Punjab House along with Maryam and Safdar.
Nawaz, Maryam's exemption request
Nawaz submitted an exemption from appearance request, from November 20 for a week, owing to the ongoing medical treatment of his wife Kulsoom in London.
His counsel stated that Nawaz's pleader, Zafir Khan, will appear on the former premier's behalf during his absence.
Maryam also submitted an exemption request, stating that her pleader Jahangir Jadoon will appear on her behalf while she is away, and added that she will be availble if the court summons her.
When the court inquired her reasons, Maryam's counsel lister her mother's ailment, security issues, and the need to look after her young daughter as the reasons.
The Sharifs then exited the court.
After initially reserving the decision on both requests, the court approved Nawaz's one-week and Maryam's one-month exemption pleas.
Witnesses record statements
Judge Mohammad Bashir had summoned two NAB witnesses today: Sidra Mansoor of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and Jahangir Ahmed of Inland Revenue Department.
Mansoor, the witness in the Avenfield reference, recorded her statement in the court. She informed the judge that the appeared before the NAB Lahore team on August 18 this year and provided the required documents.
She added that she provided NAB with the 2000-2005 audit report of Hudabiya Paper Mills.
The counsels of Nawaz and his children, Khawaja Harris and Amjad Pervez, objected that the witness provided photocopies of documents which do not bear official seals and signatures of companies.
After Mansoor recorded her statement and was cross-examined, the court recorded the statement of Ahmed, the witness in the Al Azizia reference.
Ahmed also submitted the Sharif family's income tax returns in court.
The hearing was then adjourned until November 22, when four more prosecution witnesses have been summoned.
Responding to a journalist’s question inside the court about Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan’s bail approval by the anti-terrorism court (ATC) yesterday, Nawaz said, "the courts have double standards. We are striving against these double standards and will take this struggle to its logical end".
On Tuesday, the ATC granted bail to Imran when he appeared in court for the first time, after being declared a proclaimed offender, in several cases of violence registered against him.
Hussain, Hasan proclaimed offenders: Judge
With regards to Nawaz's sons, the court had already separated their trial as they have been a constant no-show in court.
In response to a question by Nawaz's counsel today, the judge stated that the two have been declared proclaimed offenders after the expiry of their 30-day deadline to appear before the court on the weekend.
The judge also ordered that from now on they will be mentioned as proclaimed offenders in every court order.
Despite the light rain in the capital, several workers and leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz were in and outside the court complex to welcome the party chief.
State Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and Railways Minister Saad Rafique, in separate brief media talks, aired their grievances against the 'justice' being meted out to the former premier.
At the last hearing on November 15, the court had dismissed Nawaz's plea seeking the clubbing of the three references against him into one.
Moreover, at the last hearing, the court formally framed charges against Nawaz in person, as previously his legal representative had appeared on his behalf for the indictment on October 19 and 20.
Rejecting the charges in the three references and pleading not guilty, as his representative had done earlier, Nawaz said in court that he was denied the right to a fair trial and his basic rights were not protected.
The NAB has in total filed three references against the Sharif family and another 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.