- Caretakers revoke decision to hold jail trial of convicted ex-PM, as anti-graft judge adjourns hearing of Al Azizia and Flagships references till 30th
- NAB prosecutor asks Judge Bashir to continue proceedings as IHC hasn’t ruled on Nawaz’s plea seeking transfer of cases
ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be an attempt to keep convicted ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif out of the public eye till the July 25 general election, the accountability court on Wednesday adjourned the hearing of the Flagship and Al Azizia references till July 30, as the federal cabinet allowed a public trial of the deposed premier.
In a meeting chaired by Interim Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk at PM House, the caretaker cabinet withdrew its earlier notification and ordered that corruption proceedings against Nawaz Sharif will be held in public, paving the way for the ex-premier to attend the court proceedings outside Adiala. A notification to this effect, however, has yet to be issued.
The decision to hold jail trial of Nawaz at Adiala jail had drawn the ire of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership, which had lashed out at the caretakers for treating Nawaz Sharif like a “terrorist”.
According to a statement issued by the PM Office, the cabinet approved “withdrawal of a summary dated 13th July, 2018 and the Order issued under Sub-Section (B) of Section 16 of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999” pertaining to conducting Nawaz’s trial within the premises of Adiala jail.
Following the meeting, Caretaker Minister for Information and Broadcasting Barrister Syed Ali Zafar told journalists that the trial of the former premier will now be held in the accountability court, instead of Adiala.
Justifying the cabinet’s earlier decision, Zafar explained that the decision to try Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar inside the jail was taken in accordance with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law.
Zafar said the decision to hold the jail trial was taken in response to a letter written by NAB, in which the anti-graft watchdog had requested the government to change the venue citing “security issues”. However, he insisted that the request was limited to one hearing, that was to be held one day after the arrival and arrest of Nawaz and his daughter Maryam.
In case of a security threat, the Ministry of Interior could write to the federal cabinet requesting to change the venue of the trial.
HEARING ADJOURNED TILL AFTER POLLS:
Meanwhile, Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir adjourned the hearing of the Al Azizia and Flagship references against the Sharif family till July 30, after Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris informed the judge that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had admitted petitions seeking transfer of the references from Bashir’s court.
Judge Bashir has already recused himself from the two remaining cases after Haris raised objections and requested the IHC to transfer the cases to another court.
Over the course of the hearing, Haris reiterated it was not appropriate for Judge Bashir to hear the other two references as he had already made a conclusive decision in the Avenfield reference on the basis of evidence which is common to all three references.
The NAB judge replied that he had requested the IHC for the same and was waiting for its reply besides reminding Haris that the defence counsel had already moved the high court for transfer of cases from his court.
Since the IHC bench had decided to seek assistance from NAB, the court could not pass an order in the case as no one from the prosecution was present inside the courtroom, Haris responded.
He also expressed surprise at the fact that the prosecutors had not bothered to attend the first hearing of the petition. He also said the jail authorities didn’t allow him a meeting with his client.
When asked about Nawaz’s application regarding transfer of the cases, Haris said it has returned to the accountability judge after going through different forums and that there is no restraining order against hearing the cases.
NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar said the trial court lacked powers to transfer the cases and asked it to proceed with the matter since there was no order by the IHC pertaining to the stay of the case.
On Tuesday, a court dismissed Nawaz’s plea to stay the trials of the remaining two corruption references till the matter is decided by the IHC.