Al-Azizia reference proceedings postponed due to Khawaja Haris’s absence

  • Nawaz Sharif appears in court, his counsel fails to
  • Mehboob Alam summoned for next hearing

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Tuesday postponed the trial proceedings for Al-Azizia reference against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif due to the absence of the defence counsel Khawaja Haris.

Accountability Judge Arshad Malik heard the case, where Nawaz Sharif appeared before the court; however, his lawyer did not.

It was reported that Haris had sent in an application stating he was unwell. Judge Arshad Malik remarked that a similar situation had occurred on Monday, during the last hearing.

Following this, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar said that he had no objection to Haris’ illness, adding that the law allows junior lawyers to continue the proceeding in the senior counsel’s absence.

“We postponed yesterday’s proceedings due to the senior counsel’s absence as well,” Judge Arshad Malik said while pointing out that even the co-counsel on the case was also absent from court.

Expressing his displeasure at the defence counsel’s absence Judge Malik remarked that he had postponed all other cases for Al-Azizia reference, adding that the entire day is wasted due to lawyers’ absence.

Furthermore, he stated that the case had not made any progress in the present week.

“The Supreme Court is yet to grant an extension to wrap up the corruption trial,” he added.

Following this, the court summoned witness Mehboob Alam for the next hearing and adjourned the hearing till October 3.

Earlier in the day, before appearing in court, Nawaz spent two hours at Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Abbas Afridi’s farmhouse.

Before his arrival in Islamabad, a scuffle broke out between an Islamabad Police official — who was a part of Sharif’s security squad — and an elite commando who was posted outside Nur Khan Airbase. Other officials on the scene intervened after which they were made to sit in their vehicles.

In 2017, the trial against the Sharif family commenced, following which, 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.

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.

Later on July 16, Sharif, through his counsel Khawaja Haris, had filed an appeal in the IHC for the transfer of Al-Azizia and Flagship references to another accountability court since the arguments in both cases were similar to the ones given in the Avenfield reference. Days later, Judge Bashir decided to recuse himself from hearing the two pending references.

The cases were then shifted to the court of Accountability Judge Arshad Malik.