–Court orders NAB officials to appear on Tuesday to explain alteration in Wajid Zia’s statement in Al-Azizia and Flagship references
–Nawaz’s lawyer Khawaja Haris refuses to proceed in accountability hearing until IHC decides application
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday issued a notice to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for an alteration in the statement of prosecution witness Wajid Zia, who also headed the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in the Panama Papers case.
The notice was issued when a two-member bench of the IHC, comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, resumed hearing Nawaz’s petition, where Nawaz’s lawyer Khawaja Haris contended that “the report was not presented by the former premier or his son Hussain”.
Justice Minallah remarked that “if the report was presented, it should be a part of the JIT report”.
He further questioned Haris how the alteration in Zia’s statement would impact the case. To this, Nawaz’s lawyer responded by saying, “NAB’s objection says that the statement could be changed.”
The judge then ruled to hear the statement of the anti-graft body. The hearing was adjourned after a notice was issued the NAB officials to appear before the court on September 4.
ACCOUNTABILITY COURT PROCEEDINGS:
Also on Monday, an accountability court heard the Al-Azizia Mills and Flagship Investment corruption references against deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
The former premier was transported to the court from Adiala Jail, where he is imprisoned following the Avenfield verdict.
As the hearing went underway, Khawaja Haris’ assisting lawyer apprised the court that Nawaz’s lawyer was busy in the IHC, where a petition was fixed for hearing in the division bench.
Accountability Court-II Judge Arshad Malik, who was hearing the case, inquired about the commencement time of the IHC hearing. To this, the assisting lawyer responded that the division bench starts hearing cases at 11 am.
The accountability court then adjourned the hearing till 12 pm.
After the hearing resumed, Khawaja Haris appeared in court but refused to proceed further in the case until the application before the IHC challenging the accountability judge’s move to allegedly change a witness statement during cross-examination is resolved.
Judge Malik subsequently adjourned the hearing of the Al-Azizia and Hill Metal Establishment reference till September 4 after Haris informed the court regarding the pending IHC application.
Haris stated that IHC had issued a notice to the NAB for September 4, and he could not continue cross-examination until his application was decided.
The judge suggested to leave the disputed portion and continue cross-examination, but Nawaz’s counsel declined and said he had cooperated in a similar manner previously and it had affected the IHC proceedings.
In the last hearing, Haris had accused Judge Arshad of “record tampering” while cross-examining the JIT head in the Al-Azizia reference. Haris had alleged that Judge Malik changed Zia’s statement on the insistence of NAB’s Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi without providing his client with an opportunity to contest the prosecutor’s assertions.
Several prominent leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Punjab governor Rafique Rajwana and Pervaiz Rasheed were present in the courtroom. Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and a prominent leader in the Lawyers’ Movement, Ali Ahmad Kurd, was also present in the courtroom and had a long discussion with Sharif.
While talking to media outside the courtroom, Kurd commented on Nawaz Sharif’s graciousness in commending Kurd’s role in the lawyer’s movement.
“He has to play a role at a historic moment in Pakistan’s politics and he knows what he has to do in order to play that role and has the courage and vision required to play it,” said Kurd.
In September 2017, the trial against the Sharif family commenced. 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.
An accountability court had sentenced Nawaz to a total of 11 years in prison and slapped a £8 million fine (Rs1.3 billion) in the corruption reference while his daughter Maryam was sentenced to eight years with a £2 million fine (Rs335 million). Additionally, Nawaz’s son-in-law Capt (r) Safdar was given a one-year sentence without any fine.
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.
On September 1, NAB challenged an IHC judgment, allowing two of its references against deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif to be transferred to another accountability court.
NAB had filed three references against members of the Sharif family in line with the Supreme Court’s order of July 28 last year.