Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference adjourned till Friday

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Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attends the closing session of 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Kathmandu November 27, 2014. A brief meeting between India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart appears to have salvaged a summit of South Asian leaders, with all eight countries clinching a last-minute deal to create a regional electricity grid. REUTERS/Niranjan Shrestha/Pool (NEPAL - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR4FUCN

ISLAMABAD: Defence counsel Advocate Ayesha Hamid, during the hearing of Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference against former premier Nawaz Sharif on Thursday, said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) cannot use joint investigation team’s (JIT) report as evidence against her client.

AC Judge Arshad Malik conducted hearing over the corruption reference against former prime minister filed by NAB. Nawaz Sharif appeared before the court first time after his sentence was suspended by Islamabad High Court (IHC).

As the hearing began, the junior defence counsel requested the court to record their objections over Investigation Officer Mehboob Alam’s earlier statement dated August 15, which was allowed by the judge.

Advocate Ayesha Hamid said that NAB could not use the JIT report as its evidence against the former prime minister.

During the proceeding, NAB IO said that the accused persons and other people concerned had received a huge amount from Hill Metal Establishment Company. The amount was also shifted to the accounts of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, he added.

Mehboob Alam said that NAB had also investigated the transaction and sought record from the bank concerned.

Irfan Mehmood and Azhar Ikaram, the officers of Habib Bank, were also included in the investigation process and they provided the relevant material.

The operation manager of a local bank Saneel Ejaz Khokher provided the transaction record regarding sending money to Abdul Razzaq, he said.

He informed the court that NAB had written to Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage to get the record of Nawaz Sharif’s TV interview and his speech before the parliament.

Khawaja Haris objected to this statement and said this part of witness’s statement was not relevant to him and it was unacceptable evidence.

The NAB investigation officer said that PEMRA Executive Director Hassan Mustafa had provided a copy of Hussein Nawaz’s interview in a DVD.

This interview was a public history and could be presented as evidence against accused persons.

Opposing the statement, the defence lawyer argued that it was not a public history and could not be used as evidence in this case.

He said that the person who had recorded this interview was not included in the investigation process.

Haris said the CD and transcript of the interview were not prepared in front of the investigation officer.

The court later adjourned the hearing of the case till Friday, whereas the Mehboob Alam would continue recording his statement before the court.

On Tuesday, Haris completed his cross-examination of Panama JIT head and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) main witness Wahid Zia. The former premier was exempted from appearing in court for two days on account of his wife, Begum Kulsoom’s death and ordered him to appear on Thursday.

THE TRIAL: 

In September 2017, the trial against the Sharif family commenced. On July 6, after four extensions in the original six-month deadline to conclude all three cases, the court announced its verdict in the Avenfield reference.

An accountability court had sentenced Nawaz to a total of 11 years in prison and slapped a £8 million fine (Rs1.3 billion) in the corruption reference while his daughter Maryam was sentenced to eight years with a £2 million fine (Rs335 million). Additionally, Nawaz’s son-in-law Capt (r) Safdar was given a one-year sentence without any fine.

Nawaz and his sons, Hussain and Hasan, are accused in all three references whereas Maryam and Safdar were accused in the Avenfield reference only.

The two brothers, based abroad, have been absconding since the proceedings began last year and were declared proclaimed offenders by the court.

On July 10, the Supreme Court granted another six-week extension for Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir to conclude the remaining corruption references against Nawaz and former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

On September 1, NAB challenged an IHC judgment, allowing two of its references against deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif to be transferred to another accountability court.

NAB had filed three references against members of the Sharif family in line with the Supreme Court’s order of July 28 last year.