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March 8, 2018

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SC grants extension in trial period of Sharif family, Dar

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday extended by two months, the deadline given to an accountability court hearing the corruption references against the Sharif family and also granted three months' extension in the deadline on Ishaq Dar’s case.

The court also ordered an extension in the tenure of the accountability court judge hearing these cases.

A three-member special bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, heard a plea filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) seeking an extension in deciding corruption references filed against the Sharif family.

During the hearing, Azam Nazir Tarar, representing the NAB, pleaded for an extension in the deadline to the accountability court for deciding corruption references against the Sharif family -- former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his children Hassan, Hussain and Maryam, and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar -- and Ishaq Dar. He pleaded the court to extend the deadline in the case of Ishaq Dar, who has been declared an absconder by the court in 2017, by three months.

Justice Ejaz Afzal questioned as to how a person can be elected to the parliament when he was declared as an absconder by a court of law. He said an absconder loses all his rights, including right to contest to elections.

Justice Ijazul Ahsen observed that Ishaq Dar has become a senator in absentia. The NAB informed the court that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had rejected Ishaq Dar's nomination papers, but an appellate tribunal of the Lahore High Court (LHC) had allowed him to contest the election. At this, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan asked the NAB as to whether the judge of the tribunal knew that Dar was declared an absconder by the court.

At the outset of the hearing, the counsel for NAB submitted before the court that at least two months more were required by the accountability court for deciding the corruption references filed against the Sharif family, and three months for deciding the reference of Ishaq Dar. He informed that two months will be required for deciding the references No. 18, 19 and 20 related to the Sharif family, saying that in Reference No. 19, there were 27 witnesses, of which 14 have recorded their statements, while in Reference No 20, there were 18 witnesses, of which 15 have recorded their statements, and three were remaining.

“Are you sure that you will be able to complete the process?” Justice Ejaz Afzal asked Tarar. “I am dealing with the prosecution side, but hope that the processes will be completed,” Tarar replied. Justice Ijazul Ahsen asked Tarar whether the Sharif family was using any delaying tactics in the case. Tarar replied that no one had used delaying tactics in the case.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Supreme Court, while announcing its judgment in Panama Papers case on July 28, 2017, had directed the NAB to complete its proceedings on the corruption references against members of the Sharif family in six months. The NAB, in pursuance of the apex court, initially filed four references against the Sharif family and Ishaq Dar. The NAB filed three references against the Sharif family in connection with 16 offshore companies -- Azizia Steel Mills, Hill Metal Establishment and the Avenfield flats in London. A fourth reference pertaining to the possession of assets beyond known sources of income was filed against Dar, who is in London since Oct 2017. Likewise, multiple supplementary references have been filed in subsequent proceedings.

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