- Accountability judge indicts Nawaz Sharif, Maryam and Safdar in Avenfield apartments case; also indicts former PM in Azizia Mills and Hill Metal reference
- Sharifs, Safdar claim court denying them right to fair trial, call it mockery of justice
- Maryam says for first time in history, members of ‘Sicilian Mafia’ have appeared before courts
ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Thursday indicted ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Captain (r) Muhammad Safdar over allegations linked to ownership of Avenfield apartments in London.
After their indictment, Maryam, Safdar and Nawaz Sharif’s pleader read out the following statement:
“I do not plead guilty. Charges are not only groundless, baseless and unfounded but also frivolous, and on top of that we are being denied our right to fair trial. The charges are being framed on a report that is incomplete and controversial. It will go down in history as [a] mockery of justice and travesty of justice. Moreover, the charges are being framed without awaiting the detailed order of the Supreme Court in the review petitions.”
Nawaz Sharif, who is currently in the United Kingdom, was later indicted in Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment reference as well. His sons Hassan and Hussain were named as co-accused in the charge sheet.
The court proceeded with the indictment of Nawaz Sharif, Maryam and Safdar after rejecting three applications filed by the trio requesting suspension of the indictment.
In the first application, the accused sought a stay on the trial until the release of a detailed order by the Supreme Court over a review petition filed against the court’s July 28 order in the Panama Papers case.
The second application argued that the defence team was not provided with copies of statements by all witnesses and the framing of charges had not arrived.
“The copies of the statements of three witnesses – Shakeel Anjum, Saeed Ahmed, Basharat Mehmood and a copy of Volume X of the JIT report have not been provided to the defence counsel as mandatory under Section 265-C of CrPC and read with Article 10-A of the constitution,” Safdar’s defence counsel Amjad Pervez told the court.
However, the NAB prosecution argued that Volume X of the JIT report had nothing to do with the indictment and urged the court to go ahead with the indictment.
In the third application, the suspects appealed to the court to combine the three NAB references as one, and then proceed to the stage of framing of charges. The court, however, dismissed all the applications and proceeded with the indictment of the accused.
Maryam has been charged with being the beneficial owner of the London flats and Capt Safdar being her accomplice in acquiring the apartments. The accused were unsuccessful in showing the sources of income used to purchase the London flats, reads the indictment order.
It also alleged that the 2006 trust deed of the London properties is fake as it used the Calibri font before it was made publicly available while the accused also submitted bogus documents in the SC.
The trial in Avenfield flats reference will start on October 26 and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s (SECP) joint registrar Sidra Mansoor will record her statement as the first witness in the case.
Last week, the NAB court was forced to postpone the indictment against the ruling family after lawyers associated with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) protested in the courtroom.
‘NAWAZ SAYS RIGHTS PROTECTED UNDER CONSTITUTION:
Speaking through his representative Zafir Khan after his indictment, Nawaz Sharif stated that no example can be found in legal history where a six-month-long deadline to wrap up a case is given, and a monitoring judge is nominated to supervise proceedings.
He further said that the constitution protects his rights and having a transparent trial is his fundamental right.
‘A REPEAT OF 1999‘:
Talking to journalists after her indictment, Maryam hinted at military interference in the judicial process by saying the trial was “a repeat of 1999”, the year her father was toppled in a military coup led by former army chief General Pervez Musharraf.
“These courts aren’t new for me. It has happened in 1999,” Maryam added, without elaborating.
She said that one day there would be accountability of the accountability process her family is going through.
“Injustice and atrocities cannot continue together,” she said.
She said this was the first case of its kind in which the verdict had been announced first and the trial was being held later.
Commenting on reports that a NAB team has gone to London to collect evidence about Sharifs’ properties, Maryam questioned how NAB could now be entrusted with the investigation when the SC had criticised the bureau for being ineffective during the Panama Papers case hearings.
“Has the JIT’s fraud been exposed or has NAB suddenly woken up?” she asked.
Without naming any institution, Maryam said if any punishment has to be announced, it should be announced once and for all to “save time of the country and nation”.
“Don’t make a mockery of law and the Constitution… and make yourself controversial.”
Maryam said her party is still united despite the differences of opinion. She said the government is an institution which should be respected.
“Each institution should do its job,” she said.
‘SICILIAN MAFIA IN COURTS’:
Earlier addressing reporters before entering the courtroom, Maryam remarked that for the first time in history, members of the ‘Sicilian Mafia’ have appeared before the courts.
She was likely referring to the famed SC remark that was made in June this year in reference to the notorious mafia, during a contempt of court case hearing against PML-N’s Senator Nehal Hashmi.