Defence, prosecution poles apart on Zia’s testimony

Defence and prosecution argue on how Zia should testify


Rizwan Shehzad March 02, 2018
PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Recording testimony of a star witness in the trial of Sharif family – Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head Wajid Zia – remains a bone of contention between defence and prosecution teams.

The mode of testimony for head of the JIT is still a contentious issue for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s counsel Khawaja Haris and NAB’s prosecutor Sardar Muzzafar Abbasi as they could not agree on Thursday how the testimony of the JIT head should be recorded.

Both the parties would once again argue over the issue before the court on March 2 (today) as Zia has been summoned to record his statement in the Avenfield Apartments reference against Sharif, his two sons, daughter Maryam Nawaz, and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar, in line with the JIT report.

The reminiscent question: if a common witness in three references should record his testimony separately or at once surfaced once again before the accountability court on Thursday.

Haris said that Zia should record his statement at once in the references and the defence team would then cross examine the witness even if it takes days.

Abbasi argued that the witness should only be examined in the reference he has been summoned and should come back again when directed again in other references.

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Each of the three references are supplemented by the same nine volumes constituting the JIT report, six out of nine witnesses in one reference are the same, six out of 13 in another and two out of 10 in the third are common.

Earlier, different courts had turned down Sharifs’ request to combine the references and the trial court separately recorded testimonies of the witnesses.

Now, Zia has been called to testify and he is expected to exhibit the entire JIT report as evidence in the case.

Moreover, the defence team is likely to grill Zia in connection with the statement of a foreign witness, Akhtar Riaz Raja, of the Quist Solicitors, London, who admitted before the court that he is the first cousin of Zia.

Raja had engaged another foreign witness, Robert W Radley, who conducted the forensic examination of the trust deeds pertaining to the Avenfield Apartments and brought the issue of Calibri font and forgery in the JIT’s notice.

The owner of the UK based law firm said in his statement that he had congratulated Zia on becoming head of the JIT via a text message and that was their first contact, adding later the whole group of JIT took decision about his engagement as solicitor. He revealed that he was engaged under UK laws.

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In his statement, Raja said the purpose of his engagement was to review documents and issues emanating from the documents and any further action.

In addition, he said that he and his family were not activists of any political party in Pakistan while confirming to the defence counsel that he has an active Facebook account.

Meanwhile, the Special Security Guard of the Pakistan’s High Commission in London, Naveedur Rehman, was left stranded in the witness box on Thursday after Haris and Abbasi exchanged harsh words over the latter’s frequent interference during cross-examination of the witness.

Rehman continued to look in the air as Abbasi left the courtroom after recording his protest when called ‘Dheeth’ [stubborn/obstinate] for interrupting cross-examination by raising frequent objections and Haris sat in the chair once the court took a 15-minute break to ease things down.

When Abbasi returned, he demanded apology or permission to use the same word for Haris, saying personal attack would not be tolerated.

Haris clarified that he has already said: “I am sorry for using the word,” in the same breath.

Rehman admitted that he did not know who was “Kamran” [investigation officer of the reference] when he recorded his statement.

Apart from Rehman, another official of the high commission, Muhammad Zakiuddin and three other bank officials – Muhammad Ali Raza, Irfan Mehmood and Azhar Ikram – recorded their statements in the supplementary reference pertaining to Al-Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment as well as Flagship references.

The crux of the bank officials’ statement was that none of the entries pertaining to account opening form were made during their tenure and they did not prepare the sign or execute the documents they produced before the court.

Apart from Zia, the court bound three witnesses for March 2’s hearing whose testimony could not be recorded on Thursday.

Also, Sharif while talking to the media outside the accountability court said that he is not Imran Khan, who just on a whisper in his ear starts talking to the media.

Sharif said he has heard that the PTI chairman has submitted a fake NOC regarding his Bani Gala residence in the Supreme Court but would talk about the issue after consulting party officials and lawyers.

“There is a difference between Imran Khan and me. I cannot lie and hurl baseless allegations on the basis of hearsay,” Sharif said.

He said the matter is pending before the Supreme Court and he would see what the apex court decides in the matter.

Sharif observed that Imran’s current lawyer, Babar Awan, had earlier alleged that Imran’s house in Bani Gala was illegal but now he was representing the PTI chief.

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