Accountability judge rejects plea seeking merger of all three references into single case, indicts ousted PM
Former PM says already anticipated decision; says SC’s detailed verdict shows ‘judges are full of grudge… their grudge and anger has come out in words’
Court deletes Calibri forgery charges against Maryam Nawaz, Capt Safdar
ISLAMABAD: Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday accused the superior judiciary of being prejudiced and “filled with anger” against him, as the accountability court hearing corruption cases against the Sharif family rejected an application filed by the disqualified premier for clubbing together the three references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and indicted him separately in each of the three references.
Pleading “not guilty” to all the charges, Nawaz expressed his concern that since the Supreme Court (SC) had given a six-month deadline for the references to be wrapped up, deciding four references in this period would mean each case gets just 1.5 months. However, Judge Muhammad Bashir observed that the cases could conclude within the timeframe if heard simultaneously.
Nawaz also said that he was denied the right to a fair trial and his basic rights were not protected. He claimed that the cases are politically motivated.
When asked by the judge if he had received copies of the indictment, the former premier nodded in the affirmative. He also signed copies of the indictment.
After the indictment, the court revived summons for the prosecution witnesses — Sidra Mansoor of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and Jahangir Ahmed of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) — for their presence in the next hearing.
The court had reserved its ruling on Sharif’s application on Tuesday after hearing arguments from both the defence counsel and the NAB prosecutor. The court will now take up the case again on Nov 15.
Nawaz Sharif along with his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Captain (r) Mohammad Safdar appeared before the accountability court as hearing resumed into the references filed under the directives of the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case verdict.
NAWAZ SAYS WAS ALREADY AWARE OF DECISION:
Speaking to reporters as he left the court, Nawaz Sharif said he already knew that the accountability court’s decision would not be in his favour, suggesting that the trial court was influenced by the SC’s detailed judgement on the review petitions filed against the Panama Papers case verdict.
“These judges are full of grudge… their grudge and anger has come out in words,” he said, commenting on the strong words used in the detailed order.
“This grudge, anger and words will become a dark chapter of history,” he added.
Nawaz said the judiciary had penned several dark chapters in Pakistan’s history during dictatorial rules and the judgement on the review petition would be “written in dark letters” as well.
FORGERY CHARGES DELETED:
During the hearing on Wednesday, the court also decided an application filed by Maryam and her husband Safdar for deletion of a charge related to the use of Calibri font.
The accountability court had on Oct 19, indicted Maryam and Safdar in the Avenfield reference related to London properties. Besides other charges, the court also charged Maryam with signing a document in Calibri font in February 2006 when that font did not exist.
Announcing its judgement, the court decided to delete Section 3(a) of National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 dealing with forgery from the charges against the couple.
The charge could be reinstated in case the prosecution comes up with solid evidence against the accused related to forgery.
The application filed by Advocate Amjad Pervez had pointed out that “as per mandatory provision envisage by Section 30 of the NAO 1999, the cognizance of an offence of false evidence committed in the course of the investigation or trial is to be taken upon pronouncement of judgement”.
It appears that NAB filed the references against the ousted prime minister and his children in ‘haste’ as the prosecution told the accountability court on Tuesday that NAB was still waiting for key evidence from other countries.
Special prosecutor Wasiq Malik during the course of arguments had opposed Sharif’s application for clubbing together the three references and said that NAB under the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) was seeking key evidence from other countries on the basis of which the number of accused persons might increase in each of three references.
“If we could get any tangible evidence, we will be in position to implicate other accused persons as mentioned in the July 28 verdict of the Supreme Court,” Malik had said.
Advocate Khawaja Haris, counsel of Sharif, had pointed out that NAB should have waited for evidence before filing of references. “They should have completed the investigation and would file the reference after receipt of evidence,” he had argued.
The counsel had argued that the offences against Sharif in all three references were identical and same in nature. He requested the court to club the references for a joint trial of all the accused persons.
Deputy prosecutor general Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, however, had opposed clubbing of references, pointing out that the SC had passed specific directions for filing of three references against the Sharif family and one against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in its July 28 verdict.
He said that the Section 234 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and Section 17-D of the NAO was for single accused where as in all the three references, there was a set of accused persons in each reference.
He said that the references, including Flagship Investment Co, were related to the private firms established by Hassan Nawaz in the UK, Al-Azizia reference was about the companies owned by Hussain Nawaz in Saudi Arabia whereas the Avenfield Properties reference alleged all the Sharif family members of purchasing four flats in Park Lane, UK, without legitimate financial means.