ISLAMABAD : The Supreme Court extended on Wednesday the deadline for concluding corruption cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family until June 9.
The accountability court had submitted a request to the apex court seeking another extension in the deadline to conclude the high-profile cases.
As the hearing went under way, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, who is the monitoring judge of the corruption cases, asked why the trial has not concluded yet.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor replied that the trial has concluded in one reference.
Justice Ahsan then inquired if arguments in the Avenfield reference have concluded and whether its verdict can be given separately.
When Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh, who was heading the two-member bench, asked how much time the defence counsel requires, Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris said he needs three months.
Haris contended that with Ramazan around the corner, a month’s extension would not be enough.
The court however extended the deadline for a month.
Justice Azmat observed that they are not going anywhere and the counsel can come to them if the trial doesn’t conclude by then, adding that the court will not compromise on delivering justice.
Justice Ahsan remarked that the rights of the accused will be safeguarded at all costs.
Nawaz and his family are facing three corruption cases in the accountability court after NAB filed references against them in light of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Panama Papers case last year.
Hearing the Avenfield reference on Tuesday, Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir had informed of having requested the apex court for another extension in the original six-month deadline as the second extension is set to end in a few days.
Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris then stated that the Supreme Court should give three more months for the completion of trial.
Maryam’s counsel Amjad Pervez also chipped in, arguing that the basis of a transparent trial is that both sides be given equal time to present their case, explaining that the prosecution spent eight months on 18 witnesses.
The judge had responded that it is up to the apex court to decide the timeframe of the next deadline.
After the completion of the testimonies of the prosecution’s witnesses in the Avenfield case yesterday, the court had remarked that the decisions on all three references against the accused will be given together.
The next hearing of the case will be held on May 10 when the court will take up the Al Azizia reference.
The trial against the Sharif family had commenced on September 14, 2017 with a six-month deadline.
The corruption references, filed against the Sharifs, pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd, and Avenfield properties of London.
Nawaz and sons Hussain and Hasan are accused in all three references whereas his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Safdar are 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.
The court originally had a deadline of six months which ended in mid-March but was extended for two months after the judge requested the apex court.
NAB had earlier filed interim references in all three cases and later added supplementary references to them with new evidence and witnesses.
Orignally published by INP