ISLAMABAD: An accountability court has dismissed an application of the deposed premier Nawaz Sharif, seeking to record simultaneously the statement of Wajid Zia in all the three references against Sharif family and allow the defence counsel to cross examine him on the same or successive hearings.
The Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir on Friday dismissed the application and directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to produce the ‘star witness’ for recording his testimony first in the Avenfield Apartments reference on March 8.
Wajid Zia of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) headed a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe into Sharif family’s offshore assets on the instruction of the Supreme Court during Panamagate case hearing.
Later the apex court in its July 28, 2017 verdict disqualified Sharif and directed NAB to file references against Sharif, his sons, daughter and son in-law within six weeks. The former premier and his sons were named in three interim and supplementary references while Maryam Nawaz and her husband, Safdar, were named in the interim and supplementary reference pertaining to Avenfield properties.
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On Friday, the court reserved its verdict after the defence counsel Khawaja Haris and NAB's prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi concluded their arguments over Sharif’s application.
In the evening, however, it dismissed the plea after recording statements of two witnesses – Sunil Ijaz Khokhar, a bank official, and Abdul Hanan, a consular attaché at the Pakistan's High Commission in London. Haris also cross-examined the witnesses.
On Friday, Zia was summoned to record his statement in the Avenfield Apartments reference. His statement, however, could not be recorded as the court had to first decide the question if a common witness in three references should record his testimony separately or at once.
During the court proceedings, Haris argued that giving more than one opportunity to Zia for giving testimony will give him a chance to improve his argument which may hamper the Sharifs’ defense.
Responding to his arguments, Abbasi pointed out that if Zia changes his statement it will only benefit Sharif family, allowing them to raise objections on his testimony.
Haris said Zia should record his statement in the first instance in the references and the defence team would then cross-examine the witness even if it takes days.
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He cited an observation by the Islamabad High Court that said a “request can be made to the learned trial court for cross-examination of joint witnesses which are common in three references on the same day or on the following day so that they have little or no chance for thinking and improving upon what is to be said.”
Haris said each of the three references are supplemented by the same nine volumes constituting the JIT report that Zia produced before the investigation officer of NAB. He said no prejudice would be caused to prosecution if the application is allowed.
Abbasi said the trial court, high court and the Supreme Court have already turned down Sharifs’ request to combine the charge and references and the trial court has separately been recording testimonies of the witnesses. Subsequently, the court dismissed the plea.
Previously, the court indicted Sharif, Maryam and Safdar in Avenfield Apartments reference. The former PM was also indicted in the references pertaining to Azizia Steel Company & Hill Metal Company and Flagship Investment and other companies.
The court had issued directions for separating trial of Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz after they failed to appear before the court despite repeated court orders. Later, it declared them proclaimed offenders.
In January, NAB prosecution team had filed a supplementary reference against Sharif family in the Avenfield Apartments. In the reference, NAB said: “Investigation to the extent of the criminal roles of Musa Ghani, Saeed Ahmed, Javaid Kayani and Tariq Shafi” in aiding and abetting the accused is under progress as for Mutual Legal Assistance to foreign countries is awaited.
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