ISLAMABAD: Dispelling all rumours, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif appeared before an accountability court (AC) on Tuesday, amid jostling and scuffling among security officials, political workers and journalists, and sloganeering in his favour and against him.
After admitting attendance of Nawaz Sharif, the court noted the absence of other accused in the case. Consequently, it issued bailable arrest warrants for Maryam Nawaz, Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz against surety bonds worth one million rupees each, in three corruption references.
The accountability court will indict Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in a corruption reference alleging assets beyond his known sources of income on Wednesday (today). The court also directed the four accused to appear before it on Oct 2.
At the start of the proceedings, an additional deputy prosecutor general (ADPG), Sardar Muzzaffar Abbasi, told the court about the service of summons to the accused both at their Lahore and London residences.
The court, in its order, noted the “reports regarding summons are filed according to which accused Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz, who are not in attendance, are residing abroad. However, duplicate of summons were affixed near the main gate on the wall at house number 180H Model Town, Lahore. Moreover, a copy of summons was also sent to high commission of Pakistan in London, where Hassan Nawaz accused was handed over the summons at Avenfield house, Park Lane WIK 7AF Mayfair apartment, London on Sept 23”.
On the last date of hearing, the accountability court had directed Senator Asif Saeed Kirmani to apprise the accused about the summons and Senator Kirmani had said that he would only intimate Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar as the three lived in Pakistan, while Hassan and Hussain Nawaz lived in London.
In Tuesday’s order, the court noted that “Senator Asif Saeed Kirmani is present. He has informed that the accused were apprised of the case pending in were apprised of the case pending in this court as well as date in the case".
Due to non-appearance of the four accused, the accountability court issued arrest warrants under Section 76 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The court also delivered copies of reference, statement of prosecution witnesses, recorded under 161 CrPC, and other documents to Nawaz Sharif and his signatures were obtained on a receipt. Also, Khwaja Haris filed power of attorney before the court.
During Tuesday's proceedings, Kh Haris filed an application for exemption of his client from personal appearance and representation through his attorney, saying that there are several reasons for that. Advocate Haris said that his client was facing security issues and threats to his life. Beside this, his wife was ailing and under treatment in London.
To which, the judge said that the sons and a daughter were there to look after her.
At this, Kh Haris said he would appear before the court every date of hearing as a counsel representing his client. The court, however, said it would see the application for exemption after framing of the charges.
A prosecutor for National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Afzal Qureshi, opposed exemption application and said that only single accused appeared before the court. Under Section 540-A, the presence of the accused was necessary and if one did not appear, it would stall the whole trial.
Kh Haris opposed it saying it would make no difference as he would represent his clients and trial would not be halted. The court, in its order about the exemption application, noted: "An application for exemption on different grounds is also filed. Arguments are heard. However, it will be disposed of on coming date".
During Tuesday's proceeding, there was a mess on the court premises when Nawaz Sharif, with a good number of followers, entered with two federal ministers -- Talal Chaudhry and Daniyal Aziz, while advisor to prime minister on law Barrister Zafarullah was also there. There was jostling and scuffling among the police, political workers and journalist.
Police once again initially barred the media from entering the court premises, and later on allowed them. One Amir Saeed Abbasi, a journalist from a private television channel, was thrashed by the police officials alongside Shah Khalid Khan and Saad Bin Altaf. The court noted these security lapses and noted "Mismanagement of security is observed and for that reason, further proceedings could not be conducted in the case.”
Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir, on Sept 13 and 19 had issued summons for the Sharif family, directing them to appear before the court in Flagship investments, Avenfield apartments and Al-Azizia Steel Company & Hill Metal Establishment corruption references.
On Sept 8, NAB had filed three corruption references against Sharif family and one against Ishaq Dar for having assets beyond his known sources of income, in compliance with the Supreme Court judgment dated July 28 before the accountability court (AC) of Islamabad. As per reference, the accused were given ample opportunities to explain and provide evidence regarding the accumulation of their assets that they did not.
That request for mutual legal assistance have been forwarded by the JIT and response of same till awaited, which will be placed before this court, when received from foreign jurisdiction. So, under this scenario, the reference may be treated as interim reference.
References were filed after NAB chairman approved these on Sept 7 in an executive board meeting. A few hours after appearing before the accountability court, Nawaz unleashed criticism against the Supreme Court, saying that he was deprived of his constitutional and legal right of defending himself.
Addressing a press conference Nawaz maintained that he would not flee the court proceedings, saying that the Panama case was the first of its kind in the country’s history in which the defender was deprived of all his constitutional and legal rights of defence.
He claimed that the decision to disqualify him had already been taken and ‘Iqama’ was used as an excuse for the purpose. “They used Iqama as an excuse to disqualify me when nothing was found against me in Panama case,” he said.
Nawaz used harsh words against the apex court without naming it. “How we can believe in a verdict which the constitutional and legal experts are also not accepting,” he added. Later, he left the press conference hall without taking any questions from the media.
Speaking to the media, he said that bad decisions had brought bad repute to the courts, saying the history of Pakistan was full of such decisions, starting from Maulvi Tamizuddin case. Nawaz criticised the way the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was formed, and also ridiculed the JIT members. “Myself and my children appeared before the JIT members, who were selected through Whatsapp calls and they were facing their own inquiries,” he said adding that these officials had become so sacred human beings that even the Supreme Court could not act against them.
He alleged that the JIT was constituted in a mysterious way on a Whatsapp call, while the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was also directed to file cases with the accountability courts while violating all laws and rules.
Nawaz said the same court which was terming the petition as frivolous, started proceedings against him, formed the JIT in a mysterious way, directed NAB to file references against him in violation of all laws and the Constitution, and took control of NAB and if required the same court would hear the last appeal against him.
“I will ask whether it is justice and supremacy of Constitution and a fair trial,” he said. He said he had raised 12 questions at lawyer convention about one month back, but yet to get any answer. “ I will not get answers to my questions because it is the first case in the 70 years history of Pakistan in which burden of evidence has been put on the defence and he was deprive of all constitutional and legal rights of appeal,” he said.
He said he had faced such situation in the past and experiencing same scenario at present. “Exactly 10 years back, I returned home at the same airport by the same PK-786 flight during the tenure of a dictator, but I was not allowed to come out of the airport in violation of the court orders,” he said adding that the decision against the contempt of court was pending since then.
Nawaz said everybody was seeing with open eyes as to how the norms of law and justice were being violated. “It has not been our way to escape from the court proceedings,” he said. He said they remained part of all the court proceedings despite all discrimination and in the end no corruption of a single penny, misuse of power, kickbacks, commission was proved against him.
He said as he was to be disqualified, the excuse of ‘Iqama’ was present to achieve the objective. “They, at least, should have admitted that nothing was found in Panama case and that was why the excuse of ‘Iqama’ was used,” he said.
He said he had passed through the court proceedings in the past also and was experiencing the same now. “The difference is that during the dictatorship, he had the right of two appeals despite getting punishment from the anti-terrorism courts, but now I have been deprived of the same right,” he said.
He said whether the courts hear an appeal against such cases, the verdict against such cases are given in courts of people and history. “The first verdict was given on GT Road by lakhs of people; and the second was given by voters of NA-120,” he said adding that the similar verdicts would continue to come and the greatest verdict would be given in 2018 which would swept away all such verdicts, starting from Maulvi Tamizuddin to Nawaz Sharif.
Nawaz Sharif said now he appeared before the accountability court and fully believed in Almighty Allah and hoped that justice was still alive anywhere. He said apparently, he and his family were targeted but is the whole nation of 200 million which is suffering.
He said he was not presenting any philosophy and what he wanted to say was that let the country run according to constitution and accept the right of people. “Do not snatch constitutional right of people to elect their representative,” he said adding that the accountability process had been converted into victimisation.
Nawaz said repeated violations of the nation’s mandate and constitution have earlier resulted in the break-up of the country in 1971. He said the time had come that we cure the cancer of 70 years, starting from the case Maulvi Tamizuddin case; otherwise, God forbidden, the country would face any tragedy.
He said he had decided to fight the case of the country of Quaid-e-Azam, right of rule of 200 million people, case of prime ministers who were victimised in 70 years, supremacy of Constitution and democracy.
Muhammad Saleh Zaafir adds: The ousted premier said: "I know what crime I am being punished for. I know what my real crime is and I will continue to stand with my country." He said: "I will not let my family's problems become my country's problems. I am grateful to the party workers who have stood by us. If the PML-N is successful in 2018, we will not let the country's direction change."
Earlier in the day, Nawaz Sharif had hectic consultations with his party workers, leaders and federal ministers. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also visited Nawaz Sharif as he met the PML-N leader on Monday as well.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam was also among his interlocutors. The Maulana assured the PML-N leader that his party would standby the PML-N every thick and thin. They also discussed making an alliance for Peshawar by-elections in the next month. They decided to contest the polls jointly, sources added. Agencies add: Former premier said he had told Talal Chaudhry to look into the matter of an attack on a reporter.