The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is ready to prosecute former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and other Sharif family members in three corruption references pending since over a decade.
According to a written statement submitted by the NAB prosecutor-general to the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi bench last week, there is enough cogent documentary and oral evidence available on record against accused members of the Sharif family in three corruption references and they should face trial under an independent judiciary.
The statement, submitted on behalf of the bureau’s chairman, was in response to three pending petitions seeking the annulment of the Hudabia Paper Mills, Ittifaq Foundry and Asset references.
They were filed by Nawaz Sharif, also the chief of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, his brother Shahbaz Sharif, his mother Shamim Akhtar, Hudabia Paper Mills secretary Syed Ajmal Sibtain, Muhamamd Abbas Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Sabiha Abbas, Maryam Safdar, and the Ittifaq Foundry manager.
The bureau’s prosecutor maintained that the references, filed in 2001, cannot be set aside by the high court without a free and fair trial and added that NAB is ready to prosecute the accused persons if the LHC withdraws its October 18 stay order on the proceedings of a trial court.
Rejecting the Sharifs’ claim that the cases were politically motivated and were created by former president Pervez Musharraf, the prosecutor informed the court that the cases were initiated in accordance with relevant rules and enough record was available for the trial.
Dismissing arguments of the petitioners that a delay of over 10 years in the trial was caused by NAB authorities, the prosecutor stated that attempts had been made by the bureau to reopen the cases at different occasions but were rejected by the trial court.
The cases were first adjourned for an indefinite period of time in 2001 after the accused, under presidential pardon, went into exile.
In 2007, another request was made to the trial court for recommencement of the cases as the accused were expected to return to Pakistan but the trial court rejected the plea citing absence of the accused before the court.
When Deedar Hussain Shah was appointed as head of NAB, the PML-N raised objections, which led to Shah’s removal as well as a delay in the recommencement of the trial.
Those accused in the Hudabia Paper Mills case along with Nawaz and Shahbaz are Abbas Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Haroon Pasha and Senator Ishaq Dar. They were charged with securing huge amounts of money as a loan under Hudabia Paper Mills and later using the money for other purposes, causing a huge loss to the national exchequer.
In the Ittifaq Foundry corruption reference, Nawaz, Abbas, Mukhtar Hassan, Kamal Qureshi and others were accused of securing a huge amount of loan as well.
Similarly in the assets reference, those accused include Nawaz, Shahbaz, their deceased father Mian Sharif, mother Shamim Akhtar and other family members.
They were charged with accumulation of large amounts of money and assets beyond their declared means of income by allegedly misusing authority.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2012.