NAB references: Court gives Nawaz till 19th to hire legal counsel

  • Accountability court says Saturday hearings not mandatory, advises Nawaz to convince Haris to rejoin case

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Tuesday asked former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader Nawaz Sharif to hire a new lawyer till June 19, which is when hearing of the Al-Azizia reference will resume.

Nawaz, who is fighting multiple corruption references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on the directions of the Supreme Court, saw his counsel Khawaja Haris recuse himself from the case on Monday after the SC ordered daily hearings of the case, including on Saturdays.

The PML-N leader, after losing his lead counsel, had complained in a press conference that his fundamental rights were being violated “as no lawyer will take up a case where he is not even allowed time to prepare and is asked to appear even on the weekends”.

During the proceedings of Avenfield case on Tuesday, Judge Muhammad Bashir, who is hearing the reference, asked Nawaz if he wanted to hire another legal counsel or continue with Haris — whose recusal request has not yet been accepted, to which the former PM replied that the decision was not an easy one.

He then lamented that his lawyer had informed the court of his inability to work on Saturdays and Sundays.

Maryam’s counsel also backed up Haris’s concerns and said that the increased number of hearings will be difficult for the legal teams to cope with. He elaborated on other engagements as a lawyer and other cases which also require attention. “Besides, Mian sb [Nawaz] should not hire a new legal team,” Parvez added.

At this, Justice Bashir read out the apex court’s orders and pointed out that the SC had not made it mandatory for the accountability court to hold hearings on Saturdays and that the weekend hearings were still going to be conducted at the accountability court’s discretion.

“Nearly hundred attendances have been marked in the case,” Nawaz remarked. “Is this case going to be heard 24 hours a day and seven days a week?”

The judge suggested that Nawaz share the written order with Khawaja Haris and try to convince him to rejoin the case.

Nawaz countered that the SC has pressed for the early disposal of the references and that Haris has made it clear that he cannot work in “such an environment”.

The accountability court judge replied that the SC’s observations and remarks were not part of the written order and “if Haris chooses not to reconsider his decision then you should engage a new lawyer” by June 19.

Nawaz said that he, too, is fed up since the cases against him have dragged on for months, before suggesting, with a tinge of bitterness, that “If the chief justice wants my conviction he may transfer this case before his own bench and award me capital punishment or send me to jail”.

The court then adjourned the hearing of Avenfield reference till Thursday, June 14 and exempted the former premier and his daughter, Maryam, from appearing for the hearing.

Nawaz and his family members are facing three corruption references in the accountability court — Avenfield Properties, Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments — in which they are accused of money laundering, tax evasion and hiding offshore assets.


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