–Apex court directs accountability judge to submit progress reports on weekly basis
—Nawaz appears before court, summoned again on Tuesday for hearing of remaining two corruption references
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday directed the Accountability Court-II to decide the Al-Azizia and Flagship corruption references against the Sharif family within the next six weeks.
The court also directed Accountability Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik to submit a progress report of the case to the apex court on a weekly basis.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan heard the petition of Accountability Court-II Judge Arshad Malik.
Earlier on Friday, Judge Malik had submitted a written request to the SC seeking an extension to conclude the Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment references.
As the hearing went underway, the CJP asked to be briefed on the background of the case. “Till date, I have not taken interest in this case or what the issue is,” he stated.
Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Harris briefed the chief justice and requested the top court to give the accountability court till December 15 to conclude the remaining two references.
However, the chief justice observed, “We cannot grant such a long extension.”
“We do not want to interfere in the accountability court’s trial,” Justice Nisar remarked and granted a six-week extension in the deadline.
Khawaja Haris said it would be difficult for him to manage if the Islamabad High Court (IHC) starts hearing his appeal against the verdict in the Avenfield flats case. To this, the chief justice responded that the defence counsel would have to work on Saturdays as well in such a situation, as judges are already doing so.
On July 28 last year, the SC while accepting the petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan and other political rivals of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader had removed Sharif from the office of prime minister and directed NAB to file three references against the Sharif family.
Subsequently, NAB in September of last year filed three references — Avenfield properties, Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment — against the former premier.
The SC had initially directed the accountability court to conclude the trial within six months.
However, the apex court in March extended the deadline of the trial proceedings till May, and then granted two one-month extensions. After the conviction of Sharif family members, the apex court set another deadline of August 25 for the accountability court to conclude the pending references.
On July 6, Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir, who was earlier hearing the references, concluded the Avenfield Apartments reference and awarded PML-N supremo 10 years’ imprisonment, seven years to his daughter Maryam Nawaz and two years to his son-in-law Captain (r) Safdar.
Following the sentence, the jailed ex-PM had requested the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to transfer the pending references against him to any other court as Judge Bashir had already disclosed his mind on the common questions of law in the three references. The request was allowed and references – Al-Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship and other companies – were transferred to Judge Malik.
NAWAZ SHARIF APPEARS BEFORE ACCOUNTABILITY COURT:
Meanwhile, incarcerated former premier Nawaz Sharif appeared before Accountability Court-II hearing the remaining two corruption references against him and his family.
Judge Arshad Malik has summoned prosecution’s star witness Wajid Zia for cross-examination in the Al-Azizia case on Monday, after which the court will record his statement in the Flagship reference.
Nawaz has been summoned again on Tuesday for the hearing of remaining two corruption references against him and his family.
The former premier requested that he be allowed to drink tea at a stall outside the court as the hearing was delayed for an hour as Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Harris was at the SC.
Nawaz’s request was rejected but PML-N leader Nasir Butt brought tea for the former premier in the courtroom. However, there was no space in the staff room for the PML-N leaders, they turned towards the courtroom but were told that the food and drinks are not allowed in the courtroom. Thus, Nawaz’s wish remained unfulfilled.
As the hearing resumed, Nawaz’s counsel cross-questioned Panama Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head Wajid Zia.
Zia informed the court that after consultations, the JIT decided against sending questionnaires to witnesses of the suspects. Further, when asked if this point was part of the JIT report, Zia said it was not.
“During consultation on the Qatari prince’s letter, we could not reach an agreement on whether to visit Doha or not,” Zia said, adding that “the matter was taken to the Supreme Court two options were suggested whether we don’t visit Doha at all or we visit but don’t send the questionnaire in advance.”
To this, Harris remarked that the letter written to the SC did not mention that the JIT decided against sending questionnaires to witnesses.
“Was Irfan Mangi present at the meeting during which it was decided to not send questionnaires and did he mention that in NAB cases the questionnaires are sent beforehand?” Harris questioned.
Responding to Nawaz’s counsel, Zia said, “Mangi was present but mentioned no such thing.”
Furthermore, when asked if he knows that questionnaires are sent beforehand in NAB cases, Zia said, “I’ve never worked in NAB so cannot comment. However, few members mentioned that some departments and FIA send questionnaires before.”
The accountability court judge also questioned Zia and asked how many letters the Qatari prince wrote.
“The letters cannot be verified as the Qatari prince did not visit Pakistan nor did the JIT visit Doha,” the judge remarked.
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