SC gives NAB 2 more months to wrap up case

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Corruption references against Sharif family

Sophia Siddiqui

Islamabad

Supreme Court on Wednesday extended by two months the deadline given to an accountability court hearing corruption references against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members.
The apex court had given the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) six months to complete its proceedings on the corruption references against members of the Sharif family in its its July 28, 2017 judgment in Panama Papers case,
Acting on the apex court’s order, NAB had initially filed four references against Sharifs and former finance minister Ishaq Dar. Three of the references were against the Sharif family — which includes Nawaz Sharif, his children Hassan, Hussain and Maryam, and his son-in-law Capt Safdar — in connection with 16 offshore companies, Azizia Steel Mills, Hill Metal Establishment, and the Avenfield flats in London.
A fourth reference pertaining to the possession of assets beyond sources of income was filed against Dar. Multiple supplementary references have been filed in subsequent proceedings.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court also extended by three months the deadline given to NAB to wrap up the references against Dar, who was declared an absconder by the court in December last year. NAB’s counsel pleaded that the bureau be given more time to complete the trial against Dar as he was not in the country.
The court then asked how Dar, a proclaimed absconder, had been elected to the Senate. It was informed that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had rejected Dar’s nomination papers but a Lahore High Court (LHC) appellate tribunal had allowed the absconder to contest the elections. “Did the judge not know that Ishaq Dar is absconding form the court?” Justice Ejaz Afzal asked.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan, on the other hand, inquired whether the Sharif family was using delaying tactics in the case, to which NAB’s counsel responded in the negative, saying that no one had used delaying tactics in the case.
The period of six months given by the apex court for the completion of trial will end on March 13.
Meanwhile, the law secretary informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the term of Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir, who is hearing corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, will be extended before its expiry.
The assurance came after the apex court took notice of the government’s failure to extend the judge’s tenure.
Taking notice, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar had summoned the law secretary to explain what the government is doing about the matter as the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has requested the law ministry for an extension in the judge’s tenure. Appearing in court, the law secretary informed the apex court that the summary for the extension has been forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat and will be approved in a few days.
The court then ordered the law secretary to inform it of the progress on March 10.
Judge Bashir has been conducting the proceedings since September last year, when the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed three corruption references against Nawaz and his family and one against then-finance minister Ishaq Dar in light of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Panama Papers case.
Judge Bashir was appointed to the accountability court in 2012. In 2015, the federal government, on recommendations of the IHC, extended his tenure for three years.
Earlier, theSupreme Court (SC) on Wednesday took notice of not extending the tenure of accountability court Judge Mohammad Bashir, who is hearing the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) references against Sharif family.
Since September 2017, Justice Mohammad Bashir is hearing London flats, Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investment references against ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (Retd) Safdar and also leading assets beyond income case against former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.
The accountability court hearing corruption cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif allowed the accused to be exempted from Wednesday’s proceedings owing to his ill health.
As Judge Mohammad Bashir began hearing the Flagship and Al-Azizia reference, Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris pleaded the court to allow his client to be exempted from the hearing owing to his ill health. The court agreed and directed the former premier to leave after marking his attendance.
At the last hearing on Monday, when the court took up the Flagship reference, the former premier had been granted a similar exemption.
Talking to the media after exiting the courtroom, Nawaz said the PML-N has never indulged in horse-trading, adding that he personally despises the buying and selling of votes.
Referring to allegations of horse-trading in the recent Senate elections by several parties, Nawaz said they are ready to talk to affected parties to form a strategy to deal with this issue.
Nawaz had reached the court earlier along with his son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar Awan and Senator Pervaiz Rasheed. The former premier took a special plane from Lahore to reach Islamabad today.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed three interim corruption references against the Sharif family in September last year in light of the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case. The bureau recently filed supplementary references in all three cases as well.

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