–CJP says anti-graft court will have to hold hearings on weekends if it does not wrap up trials in Al-Azizia and Flagship references till Nov 17
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday granted a sixth extension to the accountability court hearing two corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family, extending the deadline to November 17.
As a three-member bench of the top court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar heard the petition, Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Haris requested an eight-week extension to conclude the Flagship Investment and Al-Azizia corruption references.
However, the court rejected the plea on the ground that it could not grant more than four weeks for the cases conclusion.
Haris then implored the court to accept his plea: “Please accept my request for once.” However, the chief justice remarked that the court had always entertained his requests, yet there was an impression as if the court did not cooperate with him.
“You can work over the weekends if you want. If the corruption trial is not concluded till November 17, we will schedule hearings on Sundays as well,” Justice Nisar said.
Further, the chief justice remarked that the accountability court judge will be questioned if the trial is not wrapped up during the given time.
Setting Nov 17 as the deadline for the accountability court to wrap up the Flagship Investment and Al-Azizia references, CJP warned that SC will not grant further extensions to conclude the trial if the references are not concluded by them.
Initially, the top court had directed the NAB court to conclude the corruption trial by Oct 7, however the deadline approached and court proceedings in both references had not reached a conclusive position.
According to reports, the court then drafted a letter in which Judge Arshad Malik had told the apex court that he was yet to complete recording of the statements of three witnesses, therefore the duration of the trial should be extended.
In the Al-Azizia reference, statements of all witnesses have been recorded, while the cross-examination of the investigation officer is yet to conclude.
In the Flagship Investment reference, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head Wajid Zia and the investigation officer are yet to appear before the court to record their statements in the case.
On August 27, SC had directed accountability court to conclude the trial within six weeks.
The Supreme Court had initially set a six-month deadline to conclude the four corruption references against the Sharif family.
Meanwhile, in the accountability court, Sharif’s counsel urged the judge to recall the investigation officer in the Al-Azizia case as they wished to ask him some more questions regarding other witnesses of the case.
The request was granted and the court issued notices to the National Accountability Bureau.
The hearing of the case was adjourned until October 15.
In 2017, the trial against the Sharif family commenced, following which, 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.
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.