–Accountability Judge Bashir requests SC to grant another extension in time after two-month deadline expires
–Says will give verdict on all three graft references together, summons Wajid Zia in court on May 10
ISLAMABAD: The accountability court hearing three graft references against the Sharif family on Tuesday sought more time from the Supreme Court (SC) to conclude the trial against deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif, as the judge expressed his resolve to give a verdict on all three references together.
According to details, Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir has written a letter to the top court requesting for a second extension in the trial.
Earlier in March, the SC had granted a two-month extension to the accountability court to wrap the proceedings. A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and comprising Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh and Justice Ijazul Ahsan took up the pleas, filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Judge Bashir. However, as the two-month deadline expires, the case is nowhere near its end, with the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments still untouched, the accountability watchdog is running out of time.
As the hearing went underway, the prosecution asked for a short recess as NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi was not present in court since he was consulting the prosecutor general on their stance. When the hearing resumed, the prosecution pleaded the court to record the statements of the accused but the defence counsel opposed the plea.
Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Harris argued that the statements of Wajid Zia, who headed the Panama case joint investigation team, should be recorded in the other two references.
Harris pleaded the court to accept his request, saying will the judge do what NAB says only. The court agreed with the arguments and rejected the prosecution’s plea. Harris also said the apex court should consider granting a three-month extension to which the judge said that the SC will decide the time limit.
Maryam Nawaz’s counsel, Amjad Parvez, said that in order to conduct transparent trials, the defence has to be given equal amount of time to prepare “as the prosecution took 8 months to examine 18 witnesses”. Judge Bashir stated that the decision on all three references will be announced together.
The court later adjourned the hearing till May 10, and summoned Wajid Zia to record his statement in the next reference.
On Monday, NAB investigation officer Imran Dogar, the last prosecution witness, was cross-examined by Maryam’s counsel Amjad Pervez.
During his cross-examination, Dogar informed the court of NAB’s procedure of inquiries and investigations, as well as lodging of references in court. Dogar stated that he had no role in the work of the Panama Papers case Joint Investigation Team.
As the hearing concluded, the prosecutor said he will give a statement in court on Tuesday on the conclusion of arguments and presentation of evidence.
Nawaz and his family are facing three corruption cases in the accountability court after the NAB filed references against them in light of the SC’s verdict in the Panama Papers case.
The trial against the Sharif family had commenced on September 14, 2017 with a six-month deadline.
The corruption references, filed against the Sharifs, pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd, and Avenfield properties of London.
Nawaz and sons Hussain and Hasan are accused in all three references whereas his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Safdar are 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.
The court originally had a deadline of six months which ended in mid-March but was extended for two months after the judge requested the apex court.
NAB had earlier filed interim references in all three cases and later added supplementary references to them with new evidence and witnesses.