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March 09,2018

Avenfield reference: AC rejects Wajid Zia’s plea to make entire JIT report part of case

Faisal Kamal Pasha

ISLAMABAD: The accountability court hearing the Avenfield properties reference against the former prime minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and his family Thursday rejected a request to make the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team report part of the case record.

The request was made by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Additional Director Wajid Zia, who headed the JIT, after he appeared in the court to record his statement. As Judge Mohammad Bashir began proceedings of the Avenfield case earlier today, Nawaz and Maryam sought exemption from appearance owing to the former premier’s ill-health.

Accepting their request, the court, however, directed Nawaz’s son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar to remain present in court. During the proceedigns, Judge Muhammad Bashir left the courtroom in anger due to misbehavior of the NAB Deputy Prosecutor General (DPG) Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi when Wajid Zia was recording his testimony.

During the testimony of Wajid Zia, legal counsel for Maryam Nawaz and Captain (R) Muhammad Safdar, Amjad Pervez advocate objected that Zia could only refer to the documents and instances that he was involved and he could not either narrate instances involving other persons or exhibit summaries, opinion or conclusions as evidence as these were not admissible under Qanoon-e-Shahadat (Law of Evidence).

At this the NAB DPG in a loud voice said, “What is this happening?” After loud interruption of the DPG, Judge Muhammad Bashir left his pen and paper, rose from his seat and said: ”What is this happening? It cannot be like this. This is unfair and not comfortable for me.”

He later put off proceedings till March 15. About the summaries, statements of the accused persons, opinion or conclusions as a part of JIT report and whether or not these could be admissible as evidence, the judge said the court would decide this matter after Zia completed his whole narration of the events and start exhibiting documents.

Prior to this when the judge asked Zia to only refer documents from the JIT report which were relevant to Avenfield corruption reference, he said it was not possible as the whole matter was connected and so was the JIT report.

With the start of proceedings, Wajid Zia was allowed to consult documents after he said this was a lengthy report and he could not memorize all. He first gave the background of the formation of the joint investigation team (JIT) in the backdrop of April 20, 2017 Supreme Court decision.

Later, while referring to the replies submitted by the Sharif family in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, he narrated that how Gulf Steel Mills (GSM) was established in Dubai in 1974, how its sale proceeds were invested with the family of Qatari prince Hammad Bin Jasim Al-thani and how the investment turned into London Avenfield apartments. Zia said that the JIT collected all the documents filed by the Sharif family in Supreme Court, also their statements and later analyzed these.

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