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September 11, 2017

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Sharifs not to appear before Accountability Court: minister

Sharifs not to appear before Accountability Court: minister

ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb has said that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and other members of his family would not appear before the Accountability Court (ATC) unless the Supreme Court (SC) gives its decision over the review petitions filed against the verdict of the Panama Papers case.

Talking to The News, she said that the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had filed four separate review petitions with the Supreme Court to review and stay further implementation of the Panama Papers case that resulted in his disqualification.

“After filing of review petitions, it is now the legal right of Nawaz Sharif and other members of his family not to appear before the Accountability Court. When the Supreme Court gives its decision on the review petitions, the Sharif family members will further formulate their legal strategy,” she said.

To a question, she said Nawaz Sharif intended to return to Pakistan but his wife Kulsoom Nawaz had undergone a second operation and he would stay for some more time in London.

Replying to another question related to pre-arrest bail for the members of the Sharif family who were facing references in the Accountability Court, she said, “We have so far not discussed any such thing.”

The sources said the experience of the members of the Sharif family with Panama Joint Investigation Team (JIT) had created a lot of doubts in their minds about the whole process of filing of references against them due to which they might decide to avoid appearing before the Accountability Court as they did when the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) issued notices for their personal appearance before its investigators.

Khawaja Haris, a senior lawyer and trusted legal aide of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, told this correspondentthat the members of the Sharif family would definitely look into some issues directly related to the transparency in the legal process against them.

The sources said that the NAB enjoyed itself the powers to issue arrest warrants for the members of the Sharif family but it was the 'sole discretion' of the NAB chairman who would retire on October 11, 2017 after completion of his 4-year tenure.

According to the Section 24 (a) of the NAB Ordinance 2000, the chairman has the unfettered powers to issue arrest warrants for an accused during an inquiry or investigation and even during trial proceedings.

It says, “The NAB chairman shall have the power, at any stage of the [inquiry or] investigation under this Ordinance, to direct that the accused, if not already arrested, shall be arrested.”

The official record showed that NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry would complete his 4-year tenure on October 11, 2017 after which the prime minister would hold meaningful consultations with the opposition leader in the National Assembly to finalise the name for appointment against this slot.

Prominent lawyer S M Zafar told The News that the references by the NAB against the Sharif family in the trial court were equivalent to the First Information Report (FIR) due to which they would have to get bail before arrest from the high court to avoid arrest.

He said, "Generally, the FIR contains the details of the police station in which it is registered but when the NAB files a reference, the trial court treats it something equivalent to FIR so all those persons including the Sharif family who are facing references by the NAB will have to get bail before arrest."

He said when the incumbent NAB chairman would retire, a senior official of the anti-corruption watchdog would replace him till the government appointed new person against this official slot.

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