Court reserves decision on Nawaz’s plea to club references

Islamabad
The accountability court hearing corruption cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family reserved on Tuesday its decision on Nawaz’s plea seeking the clubbing of three references into one.  The decision is expected to be announced on Wednesday (tomorrow).  Nawaz and his family are facing three corruption references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in light of the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Panama Papers case.  Earlier, as the hearing began, Nawaz, along with daughter Maryam and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar, appeared in court together — the first time Safdar arrived in the same vehicle as the father-daughter duo.   Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Harris presented his arguments before Judge Mohammad Bashir to club the three corruption references into one.  Harris argued that the nature of cases, as well as the defence and prosecution of all the references, is the same — thus they should be clubbed together and heard as a single case.  The regular proceedings of the case will resume once the plea is settled. The court then went into a short recess, allowing the accused to leave the courtroom.  As the hearing resumed, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) deputy prosecutor general began presenting arguments opposing the plea.  The judge then reserved his decision on Nawaz’s plea and is expected to issue his decision tomorrow.   Separately, Maryam and Safdar filed an application in court seeking a change in their indictment on the grounds that their charge-sheet mentions submission of a “false” document [wherein the Calibri font was used]. The application pleads that the document cannot be considered false as the Supreme Court, in the Panama case judgment, had directed the lower court to first establish whether false documents were submitted and then take appropriate action.  The court will take up the fresh plea tomorrow. At the last hearing on November 3, the judge had adjourned proceedings in light of the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) order directing it to re-hear Nawaz’s plea seeking to club the references.  In his petition, Nawaz pleaded the IHC to declare the October 19 decision of the court rejecting their clubbing plea illegal and order it to combine the three references against into one. Maryam and Safdar, along with Nawaz and his sons Hussain and Hasan, face corruption charges in the Avenfield properties case. Moreover, Nawaz has been accused in two other references alongside his sons: Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investment Limited references.Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar have been indicted in the cases whereas Nawaz’s sons have yet to appear before the court and will soon be declared proclaimed offenders. Nawaz and Maryam reached Islamabad from Lahore on Monday after which the former premier held a meeting with his legal and political aides at Punjab House.A number of cabinet members and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders were at the court complex to welcome their ‘leader’.  The references: The NAB has in total filed three references against the Sharif family and one against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the accountability court, in light of the Supreme Court’s orders in the Panama Papers case verdict of July 28.The anti-graft body was given six weeks, from the date of the apex court’s order, to file the reference in an accountability court while the accountability court was granted six months to wrap up the proceedings. The references against the Sharif family pertain to the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, their London properties and over dozen offshore companies owned by the family. Maryam and Safdar are only nominated in the London properties reference. At an earlier hearing, the court also approved Maryam and Safdar’s bail in the Avenfiled properties case and ordered them to submit surety bonds worth Rs5 million each.Safdar was also directed to take the court’s permission before leaving the country from now on. The judge also provided a copy of the reference — spread over 53 volumes — to Maryam and Safdar. NAB’s Rawalpindi branch prepared two references regarding the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, and the nearly dozen companies owned by the Sharif family. Its Lahore branch prepared a reference on the Sharif family’s Avenfield apartments in London and another against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for owning assets beyond his known sources of income.If convicted, the accused may face up to 14 years imprisonment and lifelong disqualification from holding public office including the freezing of bank accounts and assets.—TNS

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