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Nawaz, Maryam submit appearance exemption request in accountability court

ISLAMABAD (Monitoring Desk): The accountability court is conducting proceedings against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family in the three corruption cases lodged against them.

Nawaz and his family are facing three corruption references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in light of the Supreme Court’s July 28 judgment in the Panama Papers case.

Nawaz and his two sons, Hussain and Hasan, are nominated in all three references whereas his daughter Maryam and her husband MNA Capt (retd) Safdar are only accused in one.

Nawaz, who reached Islamabad earlier from Lahore, arrived at the court from Punjab House along with Maryam and Safdar.

Responding to a journalist’s question inside the court about Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan’s bail approval by the anti-terrorism court (ATC) yesterday, Nawaz said, “the courts have double standards. We are striving against these double standards and will take this struggle to its logical end”.

On Tuesday, the ATC granted bail to Imran when he appeared in court for the first time, after being declared a proclaimed offender, in several cases of violence registered against him.

Judge Mohammad Bashir had summoned two NAB witnesses today: Sidra Mansoor of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and Jahangir Ahmed of Inland Revenue Department.

At present, Mansoor is recording her statement in the court. She informed the judge that the appeared before the NAB Lahore team on August 18 this year and provided the required documents.

She added that she provided NAB with the 2000-2005 audit report of Hudabiya Paper Mills.

The counsels of Nawaz and his children, Khawaja Harris and Amjad Pervez, objected that the witness has provided photocopies which do not bear official seals and signatures of companies.

Later, Nawaz submitted an exemption from appearance request, from November 20 for a week, owing to the ongoing medical treatment of his wife Kulsoom in London.

His counsel stated that Nawaz’s pleader, Zafir Khan, will appear on the former premier’s behalf during his absence.

Maryam also submitted an exemption request, stating her pleader Jahangir Jadoon will appear on her behalf.

Both requests are yet to be ruled upon by the judge.

The Sharifs then exited the court while the hearing is under way.

After Mansoor completed recording her statement, the court began recording the statement of Ahmed, the other witness.

Hussain, Hasan likely to be declared proclaimed offenders

With regards to Nawaz’s sons, the court has separated their trial as they have been a constant no-show in court. They are expected to be declared proclaimed offenders today.

Despite the light rain in the capital, several workers and leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in and outside the court complex to welcome the party chief.

State Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and Railways Minister Saad Rafique, in separate brief media talks, continued to air their grievances against the ‘justice’ being meted out to the former premier.

At the last hearing on November 15, the court had dismissed Nawaz’s plea seeking the clubbing of the three references against him into one.

Moreover, at the last hearing, the court formally framed charges against Nawaz in person, as previously his legal representative had appeared on his behalf for the indictment on October 19 and 20.

Rejecting the charges in the three references and pleading not guilty, as his representative had done earlier, Nawaz said in court that he was denied the right to a fair trial and his basic rights were not protected.

The NAB has in total filed three references against the Sharif family and another 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.