An accountability court issued fresh notices on Saturday to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and members of his family to respond to an application filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to reopen corruption cases against the Sharifs.
Court-IV Special Judge Chaudhry Abdul Haq deferred the hearing on two of the corruption references – the Ittefaq Foundries case and the Raiwind assets case – till August 6, after no one appeared on behalf of the accused.
The hearing in the Hudabiya Paper Mills case, however, was put off till September 15 on the request of Advocate Akram Sheikh, who said he would represent the Sharif family for this particular reference only. Appearing before the court, he argued that NAB could not file an application for reopening the cases after the Lahore High Court (LHC) stopped the federal government from proceeding with these cases in October last year.
The reference had been adjourned sine die (indefinitely) in 2000, on NAB’s own request for postponement.
Sheikh argued during Saturday’s hearing that, as long as the petition remained undecided in the LHC, the trial court could not initiate proceedings. He called NAB’s application ‘politically motivated’, saying that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led federal government wanted to victimise the leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
NAB’s Additional Prosecutor General Chaudhry Muhammad Riaz contended that NAB could not be blamed for the delay in reopening cases. He said that the bureau filed an application for the resumption of the corruption cases first in 2007, and then in 2010 – objections were raised to the applications not being duly signed by the NAB chairperson, but this was a slot that remained vacant at the time.
The prosecutor stressed that the most recent application, filed on July 18, has been signed by the NAB chief after bureau officials observed that enough incriminating evidence was available against the accused to proceed with the case. Riaz added that the LHC had only stopped the federal government from getting involved, but had allowed NAB, as an independent investigation agency, to move the trial court for resuming the cases.
The trial court directed NAB to provide copies of its application to the lawyers representing the Sharifs and directed the defence to file a written response on whether the cases could be opened in the presence of the LHC’s stay order.
In both the Hudabiya Paper Mills and Ittefaq Foundry cases, members of the Sharif family were accused of wilfully defaulting on massive loans, causing a huge loss to the national exchequer. In the Raiwind assets reference, the accused were charged with the accumulation of large amounts of money and assets beyond their declared means of income, by allegedly misusing their authority.
The accused in the references include Nawaz, Shahbaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Hussain Nawaz, Senator Ishaq Dar and others.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2012.