Nawaz pleads judge to delay Avenfield verdict for a week


–Duty judge issues notice to NAB after accepting deposed PM’s application stating his wish to be present in courtroom when verdict is read out


ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday requested the accountability court hearing corruption references against him and his family to postpone Friday’s announcement of the Avenfield reference verdict.

The former premier’s counsel Zafir Khan submitted the request seeking the delay, saying that Nawaz wants to be present in court when the verdict is read out. The request also includes details of Sharif’s wife Begum Kulsoom Nawaz’s illness, due to which the former premier and his daughter Maryam have been in London since June 14.

“Not only is it in the interest of justice, but in consonance with the spirit and requirement of Section 366 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 that the announcement of order in the titled Reference may be postponed for a minimum of seven days period,” the applications added.

Mohammad Bashir, the accountability court judge who is hearing the corruption references against the Sharif family, was on leave on Thursday in order to pen the court’s judgement in the Avenfield reference.

In his absence, duty judge Mohammad Arshad said he cannot accept the applications, referring the Sharifs’ counsel to the registrar accountability court. Later on, however, he received the application and issued notices to the National Accountability Bureau’s prosecution.

A decision on whether the verdict can be postponed will, however, be taken by Justice Bashir after he hears the defence counsel’s argument on Friday morning.

A day earlier, Sharif, who is still in London along with Maryam, had said he wants to hear the judgement of the case while standing in the courtroom where he “endured more than 100 hearings” with his daughter.

Sharif said Pakistan has a history of verdicts being “unnecessarily” reserved for months, hence delaying the judgement of the Avenfield case for a few days “considering an extremely sensitive matter” would not violate any requisite of justice or law.

“I want to hear this judgement while standing in the courtroom, amidst my people [and] holding them as witnesses,” he said, adding that his lawyer would submit a formal application in the court requesting it to delay the announcement of the verdict.

The Avenfield reference was among the corruption references filed against the former premier and his children by NAB on the Supreme Court’s orders in the Panamagate case which disqualified Sharif.

Besides Nawaz, Maryam and her husband are also named in the case, while, Hasan and Hussain, have been declared absconder by the court. In the light of their repeated absence, the anti-graft bureau has also decided to bring them back via Interpol.

Though the NAB has failed to build a strong against the Sharifs in the reference, the Sharifs haven’t able to ‘fully satisfy’ the investigators regarding the sources through which the London flats were bought.

If convicted, the accused may face up to 14 years imprisonment and lifelong disqualification from holding public office including the freezing of bank accounts and assets.