- Nawaz’s counsel says ‘court can’t do justice under pressure’
- Former premier decries ‘violation of law, his fundamental rights’
- NAB recommends interior ministry to put Sharifs on ECL
ISLAMABAD: As the corruption hearings against Nawaz Sharif and his family draw near to a conclusion, the former premier bemoaned that he is being deprived of fundamental rights by the courts as his counsel Khawaja Haris recused himself from fighting Nawaz’s case, concurred by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) requesting to put names of Sharif family members on the Exit Control List (ECL).
An accountability court on Monday adjourned the hearing of Al-Azizia reference against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif as the ousted premier’s counsel Khawaja Haris recused himself from fighting his [Nawaz’s] case in the corruption references filed by NAB against the Sharif family.
Nawaz and his family members are facing three corruption references in the accountability court — Avenfield Properties, Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments — in which they are accused of money laundering, tax evasion and hiding offshore assets.
During the Monday’s proceedings, the lawyer and his team walked out of the case, stating that they cannot perform under such pressure. Haris said that the Supreme Court had instructed the accountability court to wrap up the proceedings in a month and to conduct hearings on Saturday. “The court can’t do justice to the case under this pressure,” Haris maintained.
The top court had “dictated on completing the trial within a month”, he remarked.
On Sunday, the Supreme Court — while granting the accountability court a 30-day extension and deadline to wrap up all three references — had suggested that the hearings for the case be held on a daily basis, even on Saturdays.
Following the withdrawal of his power of attorney, the accountability judge asked Nawaz if he would like to engage another lawyer or would he attempt to convince Haris to continue with the case.
To this, Nawaz replied that he needs some time to make a decision in this regard and requested the court to adjourn proceedings for a few days.
Khawaja Haris was scheduled to cross-examine NAB’s star witness and Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head Wajid Zia.
Haris and his legal team had submitted multiple pleas on behalf of Nawaz asking for the simultaneous recording of statements from the head of the investigation team, Wajid Zia. However, all pleas to club the references were rejected and dismissed. Haris expressed his displeasure at the “miscarriage of justice” which the SC promised earlier would not be the outcome.
Earlier in May, the apex court gave an extension till June 9 to a two-judge special bench of the court comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan. However, the court declined Nawaz’s lawyer’s contentions to extend the deadline by three months.
“We are confident that both sides, namely the prosecution and the defence, will cooperate. In any event, miscarriage of justice will not be allowed,” said the order.
After the dictation of the order, Haris had said that it would not be possible for him to complete the proceedings in a month. “It would also be embarrassing for the accountability judge and the lawyers to appear repeatedly before the apex court to request extensions,” he had further stated.
Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif on Monday said that if it was “necessary or compulsory” to arrive at a decision regarding him before July 25 [general polls], then the verdict should be delivered. “But if it is this way, then this is akin to tearing apart law, justice and fundamental human rights,” he said.
He was addressing the media after his counsel Khawaja Haris recused himself from representing him in the corruption cases.
The former premier stated that a situation has been created where he is being denied a legal counsel, adding that no other defendant in any serious case had appeared 100 times before the court.
Nawaz said that he was told to find a new lawyer and given the present circumstances, no legal counsel would be able to represent him, adding that he is not even being given enough time and is asked to appear before the court on weekends as well.
“Does the chief justice not know that justice rushed is justice crushed?” Nawaz asked in the press conference.
Holding the prosecution responsible for delays in the references, he said that it was a matter of record that his lawyers, including Haris, had never caused delays in proceedings.
On Sunday, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar had directed the accountability court to announce its verdict on all three corruption references against Sharif and his family within a month. During the hearing, Haris had petitioned for completing the trial in six weeks.
Earlier, Sharif said that he had neither requested the SC for permission to visit London or for granting him an exemption from appearing in the hearings and nor planned to do so.
He was referring to CJP Nisar’s remarks that the former premier along with his daughter, Maryam, could visit his ailing wife Begum Kulsoom Nawaz in London.
In response to a question whether the top court had granted Nawaz the permission to be absent from court in the corruption references, Nawaz denied having made any request to the apex court.
“I neither made any such request and nor plan to do so,” he said in an informal conversation with journalists outside Federal Judicial Complex where he was present for the hearing of the Al-Azizia reference.
The former prime minister refused to comment when asked about Musharraf’s condition to return to Pakistan only if he was given a guarantee in all cases against him. “I won’t say anything about that,” he said.
Separately, NAB wrote a letter to the Ministry of Interior to put Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz, Hussein Nawaz and Captain (r) Safdar’s names on the Exit Control List (ECL) as the Avenfield reference case is in its last phase.
According to NAB, the verdict in the case is expected to be announced soon and there is a “fair chance of the accused of escaping the country before the decision”.