ISLAMABAD: The conclusion of trial of references and pronouncement of judgments against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif is bound to drag beyond the July 25 general elections because of his counsel Khawaja Haris’ recusal to continue as his lawyer, legal brains firmly believe.
The advocate’s reaction that he conveyed to the accountability court was the consequence of the Supreme Court’s latest direction that the three references should be decided in one month, the third extension to wrap up the cases, saying that the accused and the nation is undergoing mental stress and agony.
“There is no doubt that after Khawaja Haris’ recusal, the references would further linger on. It is quite obvious that the new counsel would require time to prepare. The Supreme Court’s direction to speed up the trial is not justified because it will affect the whole case. This will also create an impression that the defendants are being victimized and are to be convicted in any case,” renowned lawyer Abid Hassan Minto told The News when contacted.
Another senior advocate, Akram Chaudhry, told this correspondent that the case will definitely drag due to Haris’ walkout. “The new counsel will seek time that the accountability court judge will have to give to prepare. He will need to go through voluminous record.”
The lawyer said that it was a normal practice that the judges grant time to the new counsel if the attorneys previously representing parties refuse to continue. He believed that Haris’ refusal may be intended to delay the trial.
Khawaja Haris told the accountability judge that it was not possible for him to pursue these cases under such pressure and expressed his inability to work on Saturdays and Sundays — which are official weekly court holidays. “I spend the weekend preparing arguments which is why I would not be able to continue with the case if court proceedings are held on Saturdays.”
On Sunday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, heading a two-member bench, heard the accountability judge’s request for further extension of the trial period of the references against the Sharif family, and stated that these cases should be wound up in one month. He rejected Khawaja Haris’ plea to complete the trial in six weeks.
“You are a young man. If I could work till midnight, then why don’t you do it,” the chief justice stated addressing Haris. However, the lawyer insisted that the chief justice could not bind him to work on Sundays, adding that his client is ready to go to jail but won’t accept justice done hurriedly.
To this, the chief justice said God knows better whether “your client will go to jail or not but you could not intimidate the court on the plea that you won’t work on Saturdays or Sundays.” He asked Haris to advise his client to hire some other lawyer if he was not willing to work on Sundays.
Commenting on his lawyer’s recusal, Nawaz Sharif stressed that his fundamental rights were being violated as no lawyer would take up a case where he is not even allowed time to prepare and is asked to appear even on the weekends.
"Does the chief justice not know that justice rushed is justice crushed? It is a matter of record that my lawyers, including Khwaja Haris, have never caused delays in proceedings on the references. I have been denied the right to defend myself. Legal requirements are important or verdict before July 25 elections?”
He said that if he is to be convicted before the polls, they can do it without trial. “My basic human rights are being usurped; I’ve attended over 100 hearings and still not being allowed to attend my ailing wife in London.”
Since the Panama case started in the Supreme Corut, distinguished Khawaja Haris has continuously represented Nawaz Sharif for the past twenty months. He has never locked horns with the judges and has been conducting the proceedings professionally, always bowing before the commands of the justices. He is not known to have ever sought adjournment with the intent of delaying the cases. This is the first time that he has reacted in a way to detach himself from the references.
It is not known whether or not Nawaz Sharif has so far tried or will attempt to persuade Khawaja Haris to continue representing him when the references are about to conclude. He did not hint during his presser at persuading Haris into changing his mind.