ISLAMABAD: Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and her spouse Captain (retd) Safdar on Thursday have appeared before an accountability court here for the corruption proceedings against the Sharif family.
Three references have been filed against the Sharif family members by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in compliance with the Supreme Court’s landmark July 28 verdict.
Maryam Nawaz arrived at the court amid tight security and extensive protocol for the hearing of a corruption reference. She was accompanied by ministers and senior PML-N leaders.
Subsequently, Maryam’s spouse and Sharif’s son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar reached the court premises separately.
Former PM Sharif is in London and skipped the graft proceedings, besides Sharif family’s lead counsel Khawaja Harris is also out of the country.
At the outset, one of the Sharif family’s counsels Advocate Amjad Pervaiz pleaded that his clients could not be indicted in the references until they were furnished with complete documents of the case, specifically the ‘Volume X’ of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report.
The NAB prosecutor categorically opposed the plea.
After the submission of the plea, Judge Muhammad Bashir halted the proceedings for 15 minutes. After a brief recess, the judge resumed the hearing.
Another plea was filed by Sharif family’s lawyer Ayesha Hamid, pleading that the court should halt proceedings until the Supreme Court decides on Nawaz’s plea for NAB to consolidate all references.
The NAB court reserved a verdict on pleas that were filed through Sharif family’s legal team after the defendants’ counsel and prosecutor concluded their arguments.
Later, the court dismissed two pleas filed by the Sharif family with regard to defer indictment and suspension of graft proceedings.
The third plea seeking consolidation of three references filed by Sharif’s lawyer Ayesha Hamid amid absence of lead counsel Khawaja Harris, was also rejected by the court.
Submitting the plea, Ayesha contended that holding several trials on a single allegation is violation of the defendant’s fundamental rights.
The plea was third filed back-to-back on Thursday. The court had already rejected two pleas filed by former PM Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and her spouse Captain (retd) Safdar, seeking suspension of graft proceedings and deferral of indictment in the corruption cases.
Indictment in Avenfield reference
The NAB court indicted ousted PM Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar in a reference regarding Avenfield apartments in London.
The charge sheet was read out in the courtroom in presence of Maryam Nawaz, her spouse Capt (r) Safdar, and Zafir Khan, who appeared on behalf of his client Nawaz Sharif.
Nawaz, through his representative, Maryam and Safdar rejected the charges by pleading ‘not guilty’.
According to the charge sheet, Maryam Nawaz was the sole beneficiary of Avenfield apartments in London and she submitted the forged documents with regard to trust deed of the London properties to the Panamagate JIT, using ‘Calibri font’.
It is apropos to mention here that the reference relates to the Avenfield properties (flats 16, 16-A, 17 and 17-A Avenfield House, Park Lane, London, United Kingdom).
The court later adjourned the hearing in connection with Avenfield reference till Oct 26.
Sharif’s indictment in Aziza Steel Mills reference
After a brief halt in proceedings, the court resumed hearing into another reference regarding Aziza Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment.
The court then indicted the former premier in the reference.
Sharif’s lawyer Zafir Khan was representing him in his absence, pleaded ‘not guilty’ soon after the charged was framed.
Talking to ARY News, the political analysts said it is apparent with the submission of a pleas seeking delay in the indictments and a brawl at last hearing that the ruling party is employing delay tactics against the graft proceedings.
Brawl at last hearing
On Friday, the court had abruptly adjourned the graft hearing against Sharifs after members of legal fraternity affiliated with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) staged a protest inside the courtroom.
Judge Muhammad Bashir adjourned the hearing soon after the proceedings began when the PML-N lawyers forced their way into the courtroom and surrounded the judge.
“Islamabad High Court has allowed lawyers to witness court proceedings, be it the accountability court since it is an open court,” the lawyers then claimed over an entry denial to witness proceedings.
The voices echoed the courtroom following a scuffle broke out between the federal police and PML-N lawyers outside the court premises.
Sharif seeks consolidation of three references
Earlier on Friday again, ex-PM Sharif had filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking consolidation of three concurrent graft references.
The petition was filed through ex-PM Sharif’s legal team, stating that filling multiple references on a single allegation, possessing assets beyond known sources of income, is the sheer breach of Section 9 (a) (5) of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO).
The petition pleads for suspension of the accountability court proceedings until the other three references are incorporated within a single corruption reference.
Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar are nominated in a single corruption reference in connection with London properties.
In an earlier hearing, the court granted bail to the couple in the reference after submission of surety bonds worth Rs5 million each.
Moreover, the court also directed Safdar to take the court’s permission before leaving the country.
On the other hand, ex-PM Sharif and his two sons – Hasan and Hussain Nawaz – have been nominated in two references regarding the Aziza Steel Mills, Hill Metals Establishment, and nearly dozen other companies owned by the Sharif family.
Ousted PM Sharif could face lifetime disqualification from holding a public office including the freezing of bank accounts, besides 14 years imprisonment over conviction in the references.