ISLAMABAD: Extending its deadline for the eighth time, an irked Supreme Court bench on Friday asked an accountability court to announce its verdict in two corruption references against former premier Nawaz Sharif on December 24. Sharif has already been convicted in a third reference in July.
A three-judge apex court bench, headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar also asked Khawaja Haris, counsel for Nawaz Sharif, to conclude his final arguments till December 17.
“Khawaja Haris unequivocal, unambiguous and unconditional has undertaken to this court that he will complete the argument by December 17 at 4:00pm,” said the order issued by the bench.
Nawaz ‘will stick to his narrative’
During the hearing, the chief justice
Likewise after conclusion of the arguments, there will be four days for rebuttal and writing of the verdict. “Let the judgement be announced on latest by December 24,” the bench ruled.
However, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawyers have expressed concern over announcement of a specific date for the accountability court’s verdict. They believe that the SC generally avoids passing such directions to the lower court so that trial of accused persons is not prejudiced.
The Lahore High Court (LHC) had also given similar type of deadline in the ephedrine case. Later, another PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi was convicted in the trial court before the July 25 general election.
It is the eighth extension granted by the top court for completion of trial of the corruption references, filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the former premier and his family members in the wake of the apex court’s July 28, 2017 verdict in Panama Papers case.
During the hearing, NAB Additional Prosecutor General Akbar Tarrar and Advocate Haris appeared before the bench. NAB prosecutor informed the bench about the progress in the trials. Haris also pleaded for granting more time.
The top judge expressed displeasure over delay in concluding the trial and the requests for extension and asked if Sharif’s counsel, Khwaja Haris, is narrating an ‘Alf Laila’ – Thousand and One Nights.
This remark was followed by a heated argument between the lawyer and the bench as Haris contended that he will not argue the case if this bench issues direction for conclusion of trial by December 10.
He requested the court to grant him 10 working days for concluding his arguments in order to complete the case conveniently. However, the CJP asked why the counsel is ‘causing delay’ in conclusion of trial.
He said he would not allow Haris once again to boycott proceedings and termed the argument as a delaying tactic. Haris asked the CJP if he received any complaint that the case is being delayed by defendant side. The CJP said he did not but added that request for more time gave such impression.
Commenting on request for 10 working days, the CJP said there is no concept of working days in the court and the SC judges work even on holidays. “Yesterday this court heard cases till 7:00 pm,” he said.
Accountability court writes to SC for another extension
Haris contended that he cannot work continuously because he does not have such high level of energy as the top judges have. The CJP told him if he cannot work then he should not take cases.
“If this is so then I will leave these cases but to say that I am delaying the matter is not appropriate,” Haris responded. However, later the bench granted an extension.
On December 3, the NAB prosecutor concluded his arguments in Al-Azizia reference case before the Accountability Court judge Arshad Malik. The reference is in a rebuttal stage. Deposed PM Nawaz Sharif has submitted his statement under section 342 of CrPC in Flagship Reference.
The incumbent CJP Mian Saqib Nisar is set to retire on January 18.
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