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November 9, 2017

Nawaz’s plea to club three references dismissed

Top Story

November 9, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The Accountability Court (AC) here on Wednesday dismissed Nawaz Sharif's application seeking a joint trial and joint evidence and formally indicted him in three corruption references.

The court, however, partially allowed Maryam Nawaz's application seeking altering of charge sheet to the extent of an alleged false and fabricated trust deed of 2006 scripted in Calibri font regarding the Avenfield corruption reference. 

The AC in its order said that the contents of the charge sheet to the extent of submitting a false trust deed will remain intact; however, the offence related to it, mentioned at serial number 3(a) in the schedule of National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), that is punishable for a period of five years imprisonment at maximum, shall be deleted. 

During Wednesday's proceedings Nawaz Sharif formally signed the charge sheet pleading not guilty in the three corruption references while Maryam Nawaz and Captain (rerd) Muhammad Safdar also signed a new indictment after it was altered in the Avenfield corruption reference.

Nawaz Sharif was represented in the court by Khawaja Haris, Advocate, while Maryam Nawaz and Safdar by Amjad Pervez, Advocate.

Previously, the AC on October 19 and 20 had indicted Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Safdar in three corruption references when Nawaz Sharif had pleaded not guilty through a substitute pleader Zaafir Khan Tareen, Advocate.

On Wednesday, Nawaz Sharif amended his plea, saying that the charges are groundless and investigation against him is malafide and politically motivated. “As such my right to fair trial has been prejudiced and constitutional guarantees, including right to life and liberty, have been violated. My fundamental rights also violated due to unprecedented directions for conclusion of trial within six months and appointment of a monitoring judge,” Nawaz Sharif also said. 

He further said that the Supreme Court's observations against him in July 28 and November 7 judgments are also baseless. Appearing at the rostrum, he said this court has to decide four corruption references in six months. By this count, every case will get one and a half month each. At this, AC judge Muhammad Bashir said that when you picked up with four tasks simultaneously at a single time, every task will get six months' time. 

The AC accepted Nawaz Sharif's application seeking to appoint a pleader Zaafir Khan, Advocate, as a substitute person. The pleader will represent Sharif whenever he could not appear before the court due to his engagements but every time he does not appear he would have to file an application for exemption. 

The AC would now resume hearing in the three corruption references against the Sharif family on November 15 when two prosecution witnesses, Jehangir Ahmed, Commissioner Inland Revenue Withholding Taxes, Zone Lahore, and Sidra Mansoor of the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) would appear before the court to record their statements. 

Talking to the media outside the Accountability Court after the hearing, Nawaz Sharif said that the Supreme Court judges were filled with rancour against him and now their grudge and anger had come out in the shape of words.

“Whatever the Supreme Court has said in my review petition, I already knew it and had been expecting the same. This judgment is another addition of a dark chapter in the history of the judiciary. In 70 years history of Pakistan, there are several dark chapters authored by the judiciary whenever they endorsed dictators,” Nawaz Sharif said while commenting on the Supreme Court's detailed judgment in his review petition that he had filed against the July 28 judgment of the Panama Papers case.

Earlier, Maryam Nawaz, in her discussion with her father and Senator Pervaiz Rashid inside the courtroom, said that this judgment contains everything except review. As far as Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar is concerned, the Accountability Court dismissed his application seeking an exemption from personal appearance and to be represented in the court by a pleader Zaafir Khan Tareen, Advocate.

The AC rejected the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)'s appeal to issue non-bailable arrest warrant for Dar but kept his bailable arrest warrant intact. The court also increased the amount of surety bonds from one million to two million rupees and issued notices to the personal guarantor of Dar, directing him to ensure presence of the accused before the court. 

In the corruption reference against Dar by the title of ‘assets and funds beyond known sources of income’, the trial is halted since October 23 when Dar's counsel Khawaja Haris, Advocate, had completed partial cross-examination of the two prosecution witnesses Abdur Rehman Gondal and Masoodul Ghani, officials of two banks in Islamabad. The trial is halted due to non-availability of the accused as he has been in London in connection with his medical treatment. Dar's counsel had not only to complete cross-examination but the statements of two more witnesses had also to be recorded. The two witnesses, Azeem Khan of Bank Alfalah and Faisal Shehzad of Habib Metropolitan Bank, on Wednesday adopted before the court that they had been coming from Lahore on every date of hearing but no proceeding had taken place as yet. AC judge Muhammad Bashir at that instance directed NAB to relieve the two witnesses but the two Islamabad-based witnesses will remain there for cross-examination on the next date of hearing, November 14.

In the application of Maryam Nawaz seeking alerting of charge sheet to the extent of an alleged false and fabricated trust deed of 2006 scripted in Calibri font, her counsel Amjad Pervez argued before the court that under Section 30 of NAO, the cognizance of an offence for a false evidence committed during the course of the investigation or trial is to be taken upon pronouncement of judgment and not at this stage. He referred to several sections of NAO in connection with Section 30 and said that right now merits of the case are not being touched.

Amjad Pervez said that the UK-based expert, who indentified the trust deed as being forged, was such a brilliant expert that he could not notice the 'Calibri Font' in his first report of July 4, 2017, and he revealed this inconsistency in his second report.

NAB prosecutor Afzal Qureshi counter argued that this offence had been referred to the AC by NAB. The word offence means offence of corruption that is in the schedule of NAO at serial number 3(a). The Section 30 is about the offence during the course of investigation and trial, and the court can take cognisance of it.

A prosecutor, Imran Shafique said that the Section 30 doesn't have overriding effect but it is court's jurisdiction. The court can take cognizance of an offence during the course of trial and investigation even if it has not been referred to it by either the NAB chairman or State Bank of Pakistan governor. 

Prosecutor Shafique said that the alteration of charge sheet does not mean deletion but it means addition. If the offence of forged document is deleted from the charge sheet, there will be no case against Captain (retd) Safdar, the NAB prosecutor added.

Maryam's counsel Amjad Pervez argued that Section 30 does not have overriding effects but they are asking this court to take jurisdiction.

Prosecutor Sardar Muzzaffar Abbasi said that basically it is an application of Section 265-K. The defence counsel was in fact suggesting that this is a case of no evidence but this court has to decide whether or not there is any evidence.

During Wednesday’s proceedings, Dar submitted his medical reports through his counsel Qusain Faisal Mufti where it was said that he has undergone angiography and now he has to undergo echo test and seeking second opinion of another consultant cardiologist. Due to medical conditions, Dar had been seeking exemptions from personal appearance before the court and representation through a pleader Zaafir Khan Tareen, Advocate. 

Prosecutor Imran Shafique vehemently opposed the exemption application and said that these were just delaying tactics. He pointed out that there was no echo test after angiography and Dar was just trying to avoid court proceedings. He has no serious illness and whatever had been suggested in his medical report, its treatment is available in Pakistan. 

Dar's counsel Ayesha Hamid, Advocate, counter argued that her client has a stent in his heart. Patients undergone a bypass operation develop symptoms off and on and they need to undergo treatment. The court asked Dar's counsels to get attested copy of the medical report that they had submitted, but the AC dismissed the application for exemption and issued the order. Regarding Dar's application of representation by a pleader, the NAB prosecutors also opposed the same and said that he would have to appear in person for appointing a pleader.

After the Accountability Court dismissed Nawaz Sharif's application seeking joint charges and trial in three corruption references, his lawyers said that they were mulling over to assail the court order before the superior courts.

On November 2, an Islamabad High Court (IHC) division bench had set aside the AC order dated October 19 through which the court had dismissed Sharif's application for merging three corruption references into one and joint framing of charges. The IHC bench had directed the AC to hear this application afresh in the light of mandate of Section 17-D of NAO and said that detailed reasons to be recorded later. The detailed judgment, however, has not been issued yet by the IHC.

The Accountability Court is hearing in three corruption references against Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Muhammad Safdar pertaining to the Avenfield apartments, London, Azizia Steel Company/ Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investments. As per the allegations, the assets were beyond known sources of income. The AC has already separated the trial of Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz in these corruption references and declared them absconders.

Meanwhile, a meeting of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was held at the Punjab House in which consultations were done on the Supreme Court verdict on review petition.  Federal Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid, Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch, National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Tariq Fatemi, and others participated.

A statement was issued after the meeting which said that according to constitutional and legal experts what was said regarding Nawaz Sharif [in the SC decision] does not fit judicial language at any level. Through this verdict a bid was done not only to influence trial courts, but also a decision was announced on appeal. 

The statement further added that contradictory words used against Nawaz should not be a matter of pride for any court and the verdict from start to finish is an unfortunate example of anger and fury.

Criticising the apex court’s verdict further, the PML-N said that poetry was used to question the leadership, and the people of the country know that it were the people in such positions who made the country.

The statement said that the question was not of leadership, but of the seat of justice. Even a child knows why caravans were looted, and which highway men robbed them. The caravans were looted because pledges were made with bandits, and oaths were taken for loyalty to them. To give an excuse to their loot and plunder doctrine of necessity was devised. 

It was the leaders who made sacrifices for the country; made Pakistan into a nuclear power; went through prison sentences; were hanged and exiled, and now have been disqualified, elaborated the PML-N statement, adding that leaders are facing courts, and it should be cleared that where are the bandits.

The Sharif family without any reservations acted upon the decisions taken by the court but remarks passed in the rallies of political opponents cannot be tolerated further, it said.

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