Judge irked by Nawaz Sharif’s absence from Flagship hearing


ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Monday requested an anti-graft court to issue non-bailable arrest warrants for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif over his absence in the Flagship Investments reference hearing.

The reference was heard by Accountability Court II Judge Arshad Malik who had summoned Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head and prosecution witness Wajid Zia to record his statement. However, Zia’s statement could not be recorded as the former premier and his counsel Khawaja Haris did not appear for the hearing.

The court then went on a brief break and once the hearing resumed, the judge expressed anger at the deputy counsel as Nawaz and Haris had still not appeared.

“Neither the suspect nor the counsel is present in the court. Am I supposed to wait all day?” Judge Malik asked. “I adjourned hearings of other cases to hear yours, please tell me what you all want,” he further said.

Judge Malik added, “I will write down an order and then you all keep challenging it.” To this, the deputy counsel said he is trying to contact Nawaz and asked for a few minutes to update the court.

Haris’s assiatnt Munawwar Duggal informed the judge that the lead lawyer had failed to appear in court due to illness.

When the judge inquired about Nawaz’s absence, Duggal asserted that the accused was supposed to appear and sought time to probe the matter.

Upon his return, Duggal said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo did not appear owing to “genuine confusion”. The defence counsel added that Nawaz, however, was willing to immediately leave Lahore if the court allowed two to three hours to travel to Islamabad.

Judge Malik chided the defence counsel and the accused of wasting the court and witness’ time but accepted their assurance regarding Nawaz’s appearance for the future hearings.

NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar said, “Nawaz did not file a request for exemption from the hearing,” further requesting the court to record statements of the witnesses in the presence of the assistant lawyer.

Referring to Haris’s adjournment appeal, the court noted that the request could only be accepted as far as Flagship reference was concerned and adjourned the hearing until October 4. The accountability court, however, will hear Al Aziziya and Hill Metal Establishment references on October 2.

On September 28, the accountability court had adjourned the hearing of Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family till Tuesday. Judge Arshad Malik heard the case.

As the hearing began, Nawaz’s counsel, Khawaja Haris, submitted a request for the former premier’s exemption from appearing for the hearing. The request was accepted by the court after which NAB investigation officer Mehboob Alam recorded his statement.

Following this, the court had summoned Mehboob Alam for cross-examination on October 2 and adjourned the hearing of the case.

NAB had presented 22 witnesses, including operation managers of various banks and Panamagate JIT head Wajid Zia, in the case till date.