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February 24, 2018

A view from courtroom


February 24, 2018

ISLAMABAD : The classic scene inside the court room was similar to Shakespearian drama, “Julius Caesar” in which Roman King Julius Caesar while being assassinated looks at his friend Marcus Julius Brutus and utters, “you too Brutus?”. But here in the Accountability Court Room No.1, it was not a drama but a reality that Ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and a civilian police officer Wajid Zia were under the same roof sitting before the Judge Mohammad Bashir with a distance of almost five feet from each other. Nawaz Sharif saw Wajid Zia couple of times but Wajid Zia avoided even looking towards the direction where Ex-PM was sitting along two of his family members on Friday evening.

Wajid Zia being the head of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) prepared a ground through his report, which dragged Nawaz Sharif from the Prime Minister house to court room, where he was facing references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The room was dominated by a silence often ruffled by whispers of security officials, journalists, and lawyers.

Earlier, it was probably a coincidence that the vehicles of Nawaz Sharif and Wajid Zia entered the compound of a castle like Judicial Complex located at around 1:40 pm almost simultaneously. Nawaz Sharif entered the premises of the judicial complex from the front gate but Wajid Zia entered from the rear.

When Nawaz Sharif along Maryam Nawaz and Captain (retired) Safdar entered the small court room of almost 16X30, Wajid Zia was already there. The seating arrangement are the room was divided into two sides, right and left. Each having three rows. Two rear rows are having fixed benches and the front line of each side has three fixed chairs placed before rostrum behind which sits the court judge.

It was probably security of the court which had guided Wajid Zia to sit on the left row as in case he had sat on the front seats of the right line, it could have caused an embarrassment for the security as Nawaz Sharif sits there since he has been appearing before this court.

Wajid chose to sit in the middle the front row. It is not yet clear that Nawaz Sharif and his family members already knew whether they would see Wajid that closely.

Meeting with his "enemies" might be a routine thing for Nawaz Sharif as in November 2013, during a military exercises function in Khairpur Tamianwali , he had not only seen Gen Aziz Ahmad (retd), one of the key plotter and executor of October 12, 1999 coup against him. He with a serious look had shock hands with him at that time. This time too, Nawaz Sharif was visibly serious.

All three family members sat in the front row of the right side, with Nawaz Sharif in the middle, Maryam on his right seat and Safdar on his left. Nawaz Sharif observed the courtroom curiously. The moment they sat, four security officials stood in the row dividing the left and right sides of the seats in between the front rows of Nawaz Sharif and Wajid Zia. Why you guys stood in between? I asked a security guy deployed in the court. “We wanted to save Wajid sahab from any kind of embarrassment,” he smilingly answered.

Judge Mohammad Bashir entered the courtroom from a door fixed on the right side of the wall on the other corner of the room behind the table. The court was told that Wajid Zia was there in the court with the record from the Supreme Court. Wajid Zia stood up, telling the court that he has brought the record. After that he left the courtroom. Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz saw him leaving. They did not utter a single word.

“I did not notice he was here,” said Captain (retired) Safdar when asked about Wajid Zia’s presence in the court.

Husband of Maryam Nawaz, Captain (retired) Safdar who is an MNA from Mansehra, is the man who reached court before the rest of the family members and left after attending the complete proceedings.

After the departure of Wajid Zia the court continued its proceedings. The cross-examination of Robert Radley by Nawaz Sharif's lawyer Khawaja Haris was the agenda.

Maryam Nawaz kept reciting and counting verses of Quran on her small digital machine which she often wears like a ring. Same is the case with her husband who is a staunch believer of Sufis and often disagrees with the rest of family on the issue.

Later, Senator Pervaiz Rashid entered the court room and Safdar vacated his seat for him. The ministers Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Tariq Fazal Ch. Talal Ch and Danial Aziz would come and go in and out of court room like the reporters who often leave the room for giving updates to their media outlets.

“Don’t let anyone whisper,” SSP Jamil Hashmi quietly directed a security official sitting next to me near the door. He was there ensuring the overall security of the building and smooth running of the court proceedings. He came and left the room monitoring the security arrangements.

Besides the judge and his three member staff, the small room was packed with six lawyers and an investigator from NAB, five lawyers and assistants from the Sharif family side. Almost 12 plainclothesmen, one uniformed police constable and almost 20 reporters. The PML-N had also presence of its above-mentioned leaders, while some other faces would also appear and leave the room after having their presence shown to their leader who is facing hard times in the court.

After the completion of the cross-examination, the judge gave a 10 minute break of the proceedings. Lawyers Khawaja Haris and Amjad Pervaiz Advocate came to Nawaz Sharif and smilingly gave him short briefing. Nawaz Sharif was apparently happy over the proceeding. Later, he stood up having some handwritten papers, and left the room with Maryam Nawaz and others.

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