ISLAMABAD -  The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday issued pre-admission notices to the National Accountability Bureau on a petition of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, seeking a joint trial in three references being heard by the accountability court (AC) in Islamabad.

IHC division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, however, turned down Sharif’s application to stay the proceedings in the accountability court. Later, the IHC bench adjourned the hearing till November 20.

In his application, the former prime minister also prayed to the court to set aside a verdict of the accountability court of November 8 which had rejected his application for a joint trial . He has nominated the State through the NAB chairman and Accountability Court No-1 judge as respondents.

Sharif has contended that he was aggrieved of the accountability court order for turning down his application of joint framing of charges and the joint trial in three corruption references filed against him regarding alleged offences of the same kind. 

He contended that he had also been seeking deletion of section 9(a)(v) from the charges in the corruption reference number 20. 

Sharif has contended that in the three references it was alleged that the properties acquired from 2001 till 2009 (with remittances covering from 2009 till 2015) in the name of benamidars, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz , were actually owned by the petitioner and were disproportionate to his known sources of income.

He said that each reference is supplemented by a nine-volume joint investigation team (JIT) report with common prosecution witnesses. Similarly, the petitioner’s defence against each allegation is also the same. 

He has maintained that the offences under section 9(a)(v) and all precedents pertaining thereto, a single offence can be framed against the accused irrespective of the nature and number of the assets alleged to be owned by the accused.

The former prime minister said that on July 28, Supreme Court directed NAB to file three corruption references against him and the co-accused, whereas the petitioner had challenged the order to the extent of filing three corruption references.

At this, the IHC bench questioned from petitioner’s counsel that “when you had already filed a petition before the Supreme Court, then what effect it would make when this court is hearing the same case.” The petitioner’s counsel could not give a satisfactory response.

Sharif has prayed to the court to set aside the AC order of November 8 and the AC judge may be directed to frame a single charge against the petitioner and conduct a single trial under section 17(d) of the National Accountability Ordinance. 

The petitioner has further prayed that a joint trial may be conducted to avoid conflicting judgments and proceedings may be suspended till the framing of joint charges.

IO SUBMITS REPORT ON HASSAN, HUSSAIN TO COURT

Investigation officer in corruption references against Hassan and Hussain Nawaz on Tuesday furnished a detailed report on completion of the process of declaring both the accused proclaimed offenders before the court.

The investigation officer in his report informed the court that both the accused never appeared before the court since the filing of the cases against them, and even they had not joined the investigation process of the NAB despite repeated notices issued to them.

He prayed to the court that as the one-month time period given to them lapsed on November 8th, and despite several court notices and summons, they did not appear before the court, they should be declared proclaimed offenders.

The prosecution formally moved an application in this connection before the court as well.

The NAB investigator, Mohammad Kamran, also filed details of properties and bank accounts in the name of both the accused, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz , who are currently residing in London.

According to the NAB investigation, both Hassan and Hussain Nawaz have no properties in Lahore Development Authority (LDA), Defence Housing Authority (DHA) and Bahria Town as the officials of all these housing societies have filed reply to their queries.

As per the bank accounts details submitted before the court four bank accounts of Hussain Nawaz were traced.

According to details, Hussain Nawaz has $3,992 in one account; $4,272 in second; £207 in third and Rs0.3 million in the fourth account.

After getting them declared proclaimed offender in the corruption references against them the prosecution could also proceed against them under Section 31-A of the NAB Ordinance to convict both in absentia and under the law they can be awarded punishment of up to three years.

Section 31-A  of the NAB Ordinance reads: “Whoever absconds in order to avoid being served with any process issued by any court or any other authority or officer under this ordinance or in any manner avoids or evades the service on himself of such process or conceals himself to screen himself from the proceedings or punishment under this ordinance shall be guilty of an offence (under the ordinance) punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years notwithstanding the provisions of sections 87 and 88 of (code) or any other law from the time being in force.”

On the direction of the court, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) presented the details of six companies registered with the commission in the names of both Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz .

The court also directed freezing their shares in these companies.

Legal experts say, besides awarding them punishment in absentia and freezing their assets in the country, the court could even direct the National Accountability Bureau to get their red warrants issued so that both of them could be brought back in the country for trial in the cases pending against them.

The three references against Nawaz Sharif and his family members are Avenfield properties pertaining to the flats 16, 16-A, 17 and 17-A, Avenfield House Park Lane London, Azizia Steel Company and Hill Metal Establishment references.

In all the three references Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz are among the accused.