ISLAMABAD: The accountability court in Islamabad on Friday was forced to postpone the indictment proceedings in a corruption reference filed against Nawaz Sharif and his children after lawyers associated with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) protested in the courtroom.
The lawyers had been lashing out at the law-enforcement personnel, deployed in and around the Federal Judicial Complex (FJC) where the accountability court is located, accusing them (the law-enforcement personnel) of manhandling them.
The hearing on Friday pertained to a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reference against former premier Nawaz Sharif, his two sons, daughter and son-in-law in connection with the Avenfield Apartments.
Nawaz's sons may not appear before court
At the start of the court proceedings at 8:30 am, the NAB’s prosecution team was ready for the proceedings but Judge Muhammad Bashir recalled that the defence side had been given 9 am time. The judge then went back to his chamber, saying the proceedings would start at 9am.
Meanwhile, a number of lawyers, associated with the PML-N, barged into the courtroom when the door was opened for Captain (retired) Muahmmad Safdar, son-in-law of Sharif. Maryam Nawaz also entered the courtroom and the couple, surrounded by lawyers, sat in the first row.
However, the lawyers approached the reader of the court, asking him to inform the judge that they had been manhandled by the law-enforcement personnel. They accused the law-enforcement personnel of trying to stop them from entering the court premises despite the order of Islamabad High Court (IHC).
When judge Bashir came back in the courtroom, the lawyers showed him the IHC order, and started speaking loudly. The lawyers pointed to Chaudhry Fareed Advocate, who was bleeding from his head. A female lawyer also complained that their clothes were torn and were hit by sticks.
The lawyers threatened they would “boycott the proceedings” if action was not taken against the officials who allegedly manhandled them. In the meanwhile, some lawyers scuffled with the NAB’s prosecution team, which was standing near the dais to argue the case.
Nawaz likely to return to Pakistan tonight
Amid chaotic scenes, the judge went back into his chamber and adjourned the hearing until October 19. The judge also ordered the inspector general of the Islamabad police to conduct an inquiry into the incident and submit a report in the court.
Outside the court, the law-enforcers accused the lawyers of manhandling them. Talking to reporters while leaving the court, Maryam Nawaz asked the Interior Ministry to come up with a strategy so that no such incident takes place in the future.
Separately, according to Express News, the NAB prosecution team in a report contended the protesting lawyers tried to remove them from the dais. The lawyers even pushed Sardar Muzzaffar Abbasi, the head of the NAB prosecution team, when he refused to leave the dais.
IHC seeks reply
Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb of the IHC on Friday issued notices to Islamabad’s SSP Operation Sajid Kayani, SSP Security Jamil Hashmi and DSP Adrees Rathor over the manhandling of lawyers at the FJC and sought their reply by October 18.
Avenfield reference: IHC dismisses Safdar’s plea against indictment by accountability court
The notices were issued after the protesting lawyers moved a contempt of court application. The court had previously ordered the police not to stop lawyers when they approach the FJC. “First notice then reply and then jail” the judge remarked when the lawyers said the officials deliberately violated court’s order.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal took notice of the scuffle between police and lawyers and sought report from the interior secretary. “There will be no compromise on respect of the court,” the minister said, according to a statement.
He said lawyers involved in the misconduct and violation of laws could not be considered as guardian of law. Iqbal said court entry passes were issued, keeping in mind the limited space, adding that the court safety would be ensured at every cost.
(With additional input from news desk)