- Accountability court delays indictment of Maryam and her husband Safdar till 19th after PML-N lawyers cause rumpus in courtroom
- Lawyers scuffle with police, shove NAB prosecutor; Opp parties declare it an attack on judiciary
ISLAMABAD: The indictment of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and her husband Captain (r) Muhammad Safdar in a graft reference filed by the accountability watchdog was postponed for six days on Friday, after lawyers and supporters belonging to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) created a racket while trying to enter the courtroom.
Calling it a second attack on the judiciary by the ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and other opposition leaders accused the PML-N of resorting to violence in a bid to intimidate the courts.
Maryam and Safdar reached the judicial complex separately on Friday morning. Senior leaders of the PML-N, including cabinet members, were at the scene to receive the former premier’s daughter.
Sharif did not appear in the court as he is in London, along with his sons, to be with his wife Kulsoom who is undergoing treatment for lymphoma. However, the court was expected to indict Maryam and Safdar as their case had been severed from that of her father and brothers — Hassan and Hussain.
With strict security arrangements in place, police barred non-essential personnel, including lawyers, from entering the complex. This led to a scuffle with the police, which resulted in injury to at least one lawyer.
As the hearing began, the lawyers began protesting inside the court.
They claimed that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had allowed lawyers to be present inside the Judicial Complex as well as the accountability court as “it is an open court”. They threatened to hold up the hearing until action was taken against the police officials who had allegedly manhandled them outside the court.
As a result of the ruckus, Judge Bashir decided to end court proceedings for the day and asked both defendants to leave the courtroom and return for the hearing on October 19. He also ordered the Islamabad inspector general of police to investigate the incident.
Earlier, the court was informed about Nawaz Sharif’s absence. His legal team nominated Zafir Khan as the “pleader” — the person who will stand for Sharif in court during his indictment.
Moreover, the NAB team present in the court informed its headquarters regarding Friday’s incident.
NAB officials said that they were manhandled by the PML-N lawyers inside the court and the head of their prosecution team, Sardar Muzaffar, was pushed from the dais.
MARYAM CALLS FOR ENQUIRY:
As she left the court premises, Maryam Nawaz told reporters that she will ask the Interior Ministry to come up with a strategy to keep such events from occurring in the future.
Maryam said the PML-N lawyers should have been allowed to enter the court as they had permission. “I will request the Interior Ministry to enquire into the incident,” she said.
Once PML-N supporters and lawyers found out that the hearing had been adjourned, the crowd dispersed.
Although National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Deputy Prosecutor General Chaudhry Khaliquz Zaman said that Sharif could not be indicted till he appeared in the court, before Friday’s hearing, Sharif’s lawyer had claimed that he had the defendant’s permission to hear the court’s indictment verdict in his stead.
PTI APPROACHES SC JUDGE FOR ACTION:
The PTI has urged the apex court judge, monitoring the NAB cases against Sharifs, to take immediate action of PML-N’s attack on the accountability court.
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry requested the judge to put Maryam Nawaz and her husband on the Exit Control List (ECL). He also urged the apex court judge to immediately remove Talal Chaudhry as the state minister for interior.
“It is the old habit of PML-N to attack on courts as it did in the past while attacking on Supreme Court and it was done only to secure the members of Sharif family from court’s indictment.
Chaudhry claimed that Capt (r) Safdar had on the will of his wife ordered an attack on the court by the party’s lawyers wing.
IMRAN LASHES OUT AT PML-N:
Accusing the ruling PML-N of adopting destructive tactics against the judiciary to shun the accountability of the Sharif family, PTI chief Imran Khan in a tweet stated, “Clearly PML-N is hell-bent on destroying all state institutions. People of Pakistan must be prepared to stand up and defend our state institutions.”
The cricketer-turned-politician claimed that the PML-N was attacking the judiciary to weaken the state institutions. “The destruction of state institutions means the disintegration of the state. This is the Sharif agenda which nation must counter,” he said.
Imran said this was not the first time the PML-N attacked the judiciary to avoid accountability. “Today the PML-N attacked the Pakistan’s judiciary for the second time — today it was to protect the over Rs30 billion Sharif’s loot stashed abroad,” he said.
“Why is Nawaz doing this? Why are his children doing this?” Imran asked a rally in Peshawar later in the day.
“Because they [the Sharifs] know that if Nawaz is convicted of money laundering, they will lose all their money. It will come back to Pakistan; it will be frozen,” Imran told the crowd.
“They are trying to protect themselves from accountability. They have no shame that our democracy is being derailed.”
The PTI rally was held days ahead of the NA-4 by-election, which is due to be held on Oct 26.
QURESHI CALLS PML-N A THREAT TO DEMOCRACY:
Commenting on the incident on a private news channel, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the PML-N is a major threat to democracy. He said the entire system is being put at stake to save one family. “A political action has been taken outside the court and we condemn it,” he added. Qureshi said the PML-N is using delaying tactics to sabotage court proceedings, and added that violence against the NAB prosecutor corroborates his claim.
SIRAJ SAYS PML-N PLAYED A NEW GAME:
Condemning PML-N lawyers’ rowdy behavior, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq said that a new game was played in the accountability court after the rejection of petitions in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) regarding the Sharifs’ indictment.
“Inflexible resistance will be put up if any NRO is struck with corrupt mafia,” Haq said in a statement issued from Lahore alluding to the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) issued by the government of military dictator Pervez Musharraf which provided amnesty to all the political leaders who were accused of corruption and related crimes.
PPP CONDEMNS PML-N ATTACK ON COURT:
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) also condemned the attack on the accountability court, observing that Nawaz Sharif was pushing the country towards anarchy. “PML-N has repeated its past history instead of fighting the case,” the PPP said in a statement issued by party spokesperson Chaudhry Manzoor.
Manzoor said, “Today they (PML-N) resorted to violence and forced the judge of the Accountability Court to save his life. They proved as true the affirmation of the Supreme Court that they are godfather and there is no constitution or law in the country.”
INTERIOR MINISTER TAKES NOTICE:
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, who is on an official visit to the United States, took strong notice of the incident of mismanagement outside the Judicial Complex building and sought a report from the interior secretary.
According to a message received here, the minister directed the secretary to submit a comprehensive report of the incident at the earliest, saying “there will be no compromise on respect of the court.” He said advocates involved in misconduct and violating laws could not be considered as the guardian of law.
The minister said court entry passes were issued keeping in view the limited space, adding that the court safety would be ensured at every cost.
Earlier in the day, State Minister for Interior Talal Chaudhry clarified that the incident occurred out of the court premises. He termed the clash regretful, adding that an investigation has been ordered into the matter.
On Thursday, Maryam left Lahore for Islamabad on a special plane to appear before the trial court, along with her husband, who has recently come under fire from several quarters, including his own party, for demanding that the government ban the Ahmedi minority community from government and military service.
On Oct 9, the accountability court observed that Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Capt Safdar would be indicted on Oct 13.
It had also ordered NAB to initiate the process of declaring Sharif’s sons — Hassan and Hussain — proclaimed offenders, for consistently skipping court proceedings in the graft references pertaining to the Park Lane flats and the establishment of offshore companies.
NAB has given them 30 days (from Oct 11) to appear in court.
During her three-day stay in Lahore, Maryam did not visit her Jati Umra residence but stayed at her son-in-law’s home on The Mall.
She did not meet party workers from NA-120, many of whom were expecting her to meet them and congratulate her for her mother’s victory in the by-election.
Maryam had left for London within hours of the announcement of the election result.
The NAB has in total filed three references against the Sharif family and one against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the accountability court, in light of the Supreme Court’s orders in the Panama Papers case verdict of July 28.
The anti-graft body was given six weeks, from the date of the apex court’s order, to file the reference in an accountability court while the accountability court was granted six months to wrap up the proceedings.
The references against the Sharif family pertain to the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, their London properties and over dozen offshore companies owned by the family.
NAB’s Rawalpindi branch prepared two references regarding the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, and the nearly dozen companies owned by the Sharif family.
Its Lahore branch prepared a reference on the Sharif family’s Avenfield apartments in London and another against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for owning assets beyond his known sources of income.
If convicted, the accused may face up to 14 years imprisonment and lifelong disqualification from holding public office including the freezing of bank accounts and assets.