ISLAMABAD: An accountability court has sought more time from the Supreme Court to conduct the trial on the references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against members of the Sharif family.
Judge Muhammad Arshad Malik has written a letter to the top court requesting for the fifth extension in the trial of the three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who is currently imprisoned at the Adiala Jail, and his two sons.
Both the brothers – Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz – have already been declared proclaimed offenders over their failure to appear before the court. Meanwhile, the court has summoned head of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) Wajid Zia for his cross examination in the Al-Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment reference on Monday.
The NAB had filed three references against the Sharif family in line with the Panama papers scandal. On July 6, the Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir, who was earlier hearing the references, concluded the Avenfield Apartments reference and awarded ex PM 10 years’ imprisonment, seven years to his daughter Maryam Nawaz and two years to his son in-law Captain (retd) Safdar.
Following the sentence, the jailed ex-PM requested the Islamabad High Court to transfer the pending references against him to any other court as Judge Bashir has already disclosed his mind on the common questions of law in the three references. The request was allowed and references – Al-Aziziz & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship and other companies – were recently transferred to Judge Malik. The NAB has named Sharif and his sons in all three references while Maryam and Captain (retd) Safdar were named only in the Avenfield Apartments reference.
The deadline for the conclusion of proceedings in the graft references against Sharif family members lapsed on Saturday without a fresh extension from the Supreme Court. The accountability court hearing the corruption references has sought fifth extension from the apex court to conclude trial. On Previous hearing, Judge Malik expressed that he would send the letter seeking more time to conclude references and on Saturday, sources revealed that he has sent a formal request to the top court seeking further extension for concluding references.
Earlier in March, the SC had granted a two-month extension to the accountability court to wrap up the proceedings. When the references could not be completed in the stipulated time, the apex court had granted one more month to decide the references but it could not happen despite day-to-day marathon hearings. Subsequently, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had granted one more month’s extension with directions to concluded “reference/references” by July 10. In compliance, the trial court concluded London flats reference on July 6. Later, the apex court had granted six weeks’ time to conclude the remaining references but once again the stipulated time has lapsed and the court has asked for more time.
At the moment, the court has yet to record statements of Wajid Zia and the investigation officer in Flagship reference while the investigation officer in Al-Azizia reference has partially recorded his statement. Zia’s cross examination would continue from Monday as, on previous hearing, the judge expressed that he intended to hear both the reference side by side and conclude them in one go.
Following Zia and investigation officers’ statements and cross examination, the accused standing trial would record his statement and then the prosecution and defence would present arguments and give rebuttal, if required.
Meanwhile, the accused can also bring witnesses in his defence once he finishes recording statement. Once the remaining witnesses record their statements, defence counsel concludes cross examination, prosecution and defence finish presenting arguments and rebuttals, the court would reserve judgment in the references.
Last year, the Supreme Court disqualified ex-PM Nawaz Sharif from holding public office over failure to disclose his ‘un-withdrawn receivables, constituting assets’ in his nomination papers filed ahead of the 2013 general elections.
The disqualification was made on the basis of documents collected by the Joint Investigation Team, which was probing the Sharif family. The documents showed that the former PM had been an employee of a Dubai-based firm, Capital FZE, and as chairman of its board on a salary.
However, during the trial, the JIT Head Wajid Zia admitted in a startling revelation that the team did not collect any document to establish if deposed PM had received salary from the Capital FZE Company.
The documents obtained from a law firm and stamped by the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA) apparently pertain to former PM’s employment contract, payment certificate, personal details, him being the chairman of the board at Capital FZE from July 8, 2006, to July 7, 2008, but they do not state that Sharif actually received salary from the company.