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November 16, 2017

Accountability being controlled from somewhere else: Nawaz

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November 16, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has said the accountability process was being controlled and dictated from somewhere else, adding that the Supreme Court judgment on his review petition was in fact a message to the accountability court that he must be awarded punishment at all costs.

“In the Supreme Court judgment, the judges have used words similar to what our political opponents use for us. It has been written beforehand that I must be sentenced,” said Nawaz, talking to media persons outside the accountability court.

“The judge of this court would not award me sentence but this sentence is being imposed by someone else. In 1999, when the plane hijacking case was registered against me, I had said the same things like now and all my apprehensions proved right.” To a question that Imran Khan was granted bail in all the four cases just at his first-ever appearance after several summons and several arrest warrants issued for him, Nawaz said the procedures adopted in his case were different to those in the cases of some others.

Earlier, the ousted premier, talking to reporters inside thecourtroom, said, “Our judicial system has double standards. I am hopeful that our struggle will reach its logical conclusion." Earlier, the accountability court granted seven-day exemption from personal appearance to Nawaz and for 30 days to his daughter Maryam Nawaz.

Both father and daughter's appointed pleaders Zaafir Khan Tareen and Jehangir Khan Jadoon will respectively appear before the court in their absence. Exemption has been granted on the ground that they will go and see ailing Begum Kulsoom Nawaz in the UK.

The decision came as Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris requested the court to grant an exemption to his client who had to see his wife – life partner for the last 45 years and now in critical condition. Nawaz would travel to London on November 20 and return in three to four days, Haris explained.

The counsel for Maryam said his client had been appearing before the court regularly and “she now needs to see her ailing mother”. The accountability court deferred its decision to declare Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz proclaimed offenders and maintained their status as absconders till November 22.

An SECP official, Sidra Mansoor, submitted the shares details of Hassan and Hussain's shares in different companies before the court, to which the judge said he would examine the documents.

Earlier, at the start of proceedings, Sidra recorded her statement in the NAB reference concerning the Avenfield properties. She is yet to record her statement in the Azizia Steel Company/Hill Metal Establishment reference. She presented the SECP record, audited accounts, attested documents with a covering letter from year 2000 till 2005.

During cross-examination by Nawaz’s counsel, she said she neither prepared nor signed and attested the documents. According to the JIT report, there is a link between the Hudaibiya Papers Mills case and foreign investments.

Sidra told the court that from 2000 till 2005, Nawaz never remained either a director or shareholder of Hudaibiya Paper Mills. She produced Forms A and Forms 29 of different years that did not show the name of Nawaz in any capacity.

At this point, NAB prosecutor Afzal Qureshi said if there was no mention of Nawaz, then some other names of his family were there. However, Haris objected, saying he was cross-examining the prosecution witness to the extent of his client only.

The counsel for Maryam and Capt (retd) Safdar, Amjad Pervaiz, who also cross-examined Sidra, adopted Haris's arguments. He, however, asked a question that the NAB sought attested copies of the record, not a report. “Then why you attached a report with the documents that has no date as well,” he questioned.

Sidra replied that the NAB in its letter had sought attested copies of the audited accounts and details and the report was in connection with the 'details'. The second prosecution witness, Jehangir Ahmed [Commissioner Inland Revenue Withholding Tax, Lahore Zone] also recorded his statement and was cross-examined as well.

He said the NAB through a letter dated August 17 sought from him the details of Nawaz’s income tax and wealth tax returns as well as wealth statements. “I handed to them two attested documents that they returned to me after examination.”

Haris once again repeated his question and got an affirmative reply that the submitted documents were neither prepared nor signed by the witness and were also not in his custody. Haris asked Jehangir if any tax officer ever raised objections over Nawaz’s income tax and wealth tax returns or was there any pending litigation between Nawaz and the tax authorities. To which the witness replied that he had no knowledge of that.

In case of Maryam’s application, the counsel argued that his client was seeking an exemption for three reasons: her mother is critically ill in London and she has to see her, there are security threats, and she is a mother of a minor daughter and has to take care of her.

But a prosecutor, Qureshi, argued that there were no cogent reasons for granting an exemption to her, as Maryam wasn’t ill and her brothers were there in London to take care of their mother.

“There are several persons who are daily brought to the courts handcuffed and there are several others languishing behind the bars. They too have brothers, sisters and other relatives and they may also be granted exemptions. Under Section 540-A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), no exemption could be granted to the accused,” the prosecutor said.

But Amjad, in his counter arguments, said, “It is said in Section 540-A that if there are more than one accused, one could be granted exemption.” He added that in the Avenfield properties reference – in which Maryam has been nominated – another accused Safdar would keep attending the court proceedings.

He cited many precedents and said the superior courts exempted the accused from personal appearance even on the pretext of pleasure trips. Another NAB prosecutor, Wasiq Malik, argued that Nawaz was the sole accused in Azizia Steel Mills/Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investments references and his absence would halt the trial. However, the accountability court, after hearing the arguments of both parties, accepted the applications and adjourned further hearing till November 22.

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