–Defence counsel Khawaja Harris says prosecution failed to provide direct evidence connecting Nawaz with London properties
–Says NAB ‘miserably failed’ to follow set procedures in graft cases against Sharifs
ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has failed to shift the onus of proof on the Sharif family in the Avenfield reference, said Khawaja Harris, the lead counsel for deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif, in his concluding arguments on Wednesday.
During the proceedings of the reference pertaining to the Avenfield apartments at the accountability court in Islamabad, Harris stated the prosecution team has failed to make a strong case against Sharif.
Harris, while corroborating his argument with several judgements from Indian and Pakistani courts, stated that the NAB has not followed the required criteria in the case against Nawaz Sharif.
Even though there were scores of judgements of the Supreme Court (SC) that had set certain preconditions for shifting of the onus of proof on the accused, the NAB failed to follow the procedure in the ongoing case, he said.
Bringing up Section 14 (C) of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), Sharif’s counsel stated that though the law stated that the accused needs to prove their innocence, it can only be done once the prosecution establishes a strong case.
The counsel argued that the superior court had laid down four prerequisites for shifting the burden of proof on the defendant in cases related to Khalid Aziz versus NAB and Hakim Ali Zardari versus NAB.
He went on to argue that as per SC’s order it was mandatory for the prosecution to prove that the accused was holding public office when the alleged property was purchased.
In spite of top court’s clear directions, the prosecution failed to fulfill even one of the conditions. “They did not even probe the financial resources of the accused persons and what was the means of his finances”, argued the defence counsel.
Nawaz hasn’t accepted ownership of anything, remarked Harris as the hearing went underway in the court of Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir. “London flats are not in the name of Nawaz.”
“Nawaz’s ownership was never proven. If the ownership had been proven only then we could have discussed the supposed difference between income and assets,” he added.
Harris claimed that Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan official Sidra Mansoor could not even verify the documents she presented in court.
The lead counsel maintained that not a single prosecution witness, including star witness Wajid Zia, had admitted to having evidence of the ownership of London properties by Nawaz Sharif.
The defence counsel termed the testimony of Zia a “pack of lies” and said: “I wonder [how] a man could lie to such an extent.”
He further argued that the prosecution, in order to link Sharif to the London flats, had tried to establish a connection through the settlement of Al-Tawfeek Investment.
Both the joint investigation team and NAB failed to obtain direct evidence against Sharif related to the ownership of said properties, he added.
The defence counsel will continue his closing arguments on Thursday.
Separately, a two-member bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed the NAB to proceed with its arguments on a petition filed by Nawaz seeking concurrent proceedings in the three outstanding references against the former PM.
The IHC bench has adjourned the proceeding till Thursday.
Azam Nazir Tarrar and Amjad Pervez represented the Sharif family before a two-member IHC bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani.
Nawaz’s counsel Tarrar argued before the court recording separate testimony of witnesses common to the three cases was depriving him of his fundamental right to a fair trial.
The accountability court had deviated from its own order wherein it decided to record statement of common witnesses simultaneously, the counsel argued, adding that the star witness’—Wajid Zia—testimony should has been required simultaneously as per court’s previous order.