LAHORE: A two-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Sunday granted a one-month extension to an accountability court for concluding trial in three corruption references initiated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the Sharif family.
NAB filed the corruption references following the apex court’s verdict in the Panama Papers case.
Earlier, CJP Nisar rejected the plea filed by deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif, seeking conclusion of the trial within six weeks.
The bench granted one month’s time to conclude all three references by holding hearings on the daily basis, including Saturdays and Sundays.
He directed the NAB court judge for completing the hearing as early as possible.
“These cases should be concluded now,” the chief justice remarked, adding, “The accused as well the entire nation is experiencing mental agony and this situation should be over.”
With regards to the hearing on the daily basis, former PM’s counsel Advocate Khwaja Haris said that he does not work on Sundays or beyond the court timing. “If I could work till midnights then why could you not do it,” the CJP remarked.
Khwaja Haris said that the CJP could not bind him to work on Sundays adding his client is ready to go to jail but he does not want justice in hurry. At this, the CJP observed “God knows better whether your client is going to jail or not but it cannot make it a plea that you won’t work on Saturdays or Sundays. Ask your client to hire another lawyer if you are not willing to work on Sundays,” the CJP remarked in response to Advocate Haris.
With regards to the criticism by Nawaz Sharif, the CJP regretted that they applaud the courts when a decision comes in their favour and regret if it goes otherwise.
He said that they can go to see Kulsoom Nawaz if they want to. “You propagate that the (accountability) court does not allow you to visit ailing Kulsoom in London just to earn publicity. Tell me when you want to go and we will allow you the visit at once,” said the CJP. “How long it will take Nawaz to return from London,” he further remarked.
The petitioner submitted that Wajid Zia was being prosecuted in Al Azizia reference while the statement of investigation officer was yet to be recorded. He said that the decision could not be announced yet and pleaded the bench for an extension to conclude the trial.
On July 28, 2017, the top court announced the Panama Papers verdict and disqualified Nawaz Sharif from the post of prime minister, giving six months’ time to the accountability court to conclude the trial.
The first deadline ended in mid-March. Consequently, the accountability court requested for an extension which was given for two months till May. However, the trial could not be completed and another extension from May to June 9 was given by the Supreme Court.
On June 4, Accountability judge Muhammad Bashir during the hearing of Al-Azizia reference had remarked that he would write a letter to the Supreme Court seeking another extension to conclude the corruption references against the Sharif family.
The NAB had moved references against Sharifs regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd and Avenfield properties of London.
Nawaz Sharif and his sons Hussain and Hassan had been facing three references while his daughter Maryam Safdar and Captain (retd) Safdar had been facing Avenfield reference only.
Hussain and Hassan were declared proclaimed offenders by the court as they both have been absconding since the proceedings commenced last year following the Panama Papers verdict.