ISLAMABAD  -  Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir Monday said he would write a letter to the Supreme Court seeking another extension in the deadline to conclude the ongoing references against Sharif family.

An earlier revised deadline set by the apex court to wrap up the corruption references against the Sharif family and former finance minister Ishaq Dar is going to expire on June 9.

The Supreme Court, in its order passed on July 28, 2017, in Panama Papers case, had instructed the accountability court to wrap up the references within six months.

Following the Supreme Court directives, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed four references in September 2017 against the Sharifs. The first extension of two months was given by the apex court, which expired in May 2018.

After the expiry of the two months deadline, the apex court granted another month to the accountability court last month on its request for concluding the pending references.

The latest revised deadline is also going to expire in a few days, but the court has so far only finished recording testimonies of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and his son-in-law Capt (r) Muhammad Safdar, all in the Avenfield property references.

These testimonies consumed about nine days of court proceedings and the former premier is still to appear in at least another round to record his statement in Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment references.

The court is currently recording the testimony of Wajid Zia, the star prosecution witness in Al-Azizia reference. He was also the head of the joint investigation team (JIT) that probed the Panama Papers case.

After him, the prosecution will produce their final witness in Al-Azizia reference — an investigation officer of the NAB.

At some point, Zia and the NAB officer in question will also have to testify in the Flagship reference, while the recording of the final arguments in all the three references is also on the agenda.

Meanwhile, the accountability court Monday adjourned the cross-examination of Zia in Al-Azizia reference against the Sharif family till June 11.

The accountability court judge, while adjourning the cross-examination, directed the prosecution to submit final arguments in the London flats case by tomorrow.

During the hearing, Sharif’s counsel Khawaja Harris who was cross-examining Zia requested the judge to hear arguments in all three references at once. “Sixty percent of the arguments are the same in the three references. We will file a petition tomorrow against your written order to announce a combined judgment,” Harris said.

However, the NAB deputy prosecutor remarked, “We will conduct separate examinations on all the three references. The accused did not produce anything in his defence in the Avenfield reference,” he said.

Sharif and his family members are facing three corruption references in the accountability court — Avenfield properties, Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments — in which they are accused of money-laundering, tax evasion and hiding of offshore assets.

During his cross-examination, Zia said there were two parties involved in the 1978 sale agreement of the Gulf Steel Mills, Muhammad Hussain and Tariq Shafi. “The JIT could not trace the whereabouts of Hussain’s legal heir Shehzad and did not quiz Tariq Shafi on the subject when he appeared before the investigation team,” Zia testified.

Similarly, Zia admitted the JIT did not make any effort to include Muhammad Abdullah Kayed Ahli in the investigation regarding the agreement for the sale of the leftover shares of the Gulf Steel Mills in 1980.

Moreover, he said the investigation team made no effort to record the testimonies of Abdul Wahab Ibrahim Galadari and Muhammad Akram, the witnesses to the 1980 sale agreement.

Responding to multiple questions raised by defence counsel Haris regarding a mutual legal assistance (MLA) request sent to the UAE by the JIT to ascertain the genuineness of a letter of credit (LC) showing transportation of secondhand rolling mill equipment from Sharjah to Jeddah, Zia admitted there was no document which termed the said LC fake.

Earlier, former prime minister Sharif said he was responsible only for his deeds. Talking to journalists inside the accountability court, Sharif, commenting on queries of media persons about the prevailing power outages in the country, said he was not responsible for the ongoing power failure. “I am only responsible for my government’s deeds; everything was going fine during my government. There were no loadshedding reports during the PML-N government. The PML-N left the government when every state institution was accomplishing its respective responsibilities up to the mark,” Sharif said.

He also said Shehbaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi inaugurated various projects during last days of the PM-N government not only in Punjab but also at the federal level. “More than 39 mega projects of modern hospitals, colleges and universities have been inaugurated by the PML-N government. Is there any other government in the country that had inaugurated mega projects like the PM-N had done during the last five years,” he said.

Sharif said Multan-Karachi Motorway was scheduled to be completed in May 2018, but the mega project could not be completed in time as he was ousted from the office.

Commenting on the ruling of the high court on nomination papers, Sharif questioned how a single bench could turn down the decision of the parliament.

 

 

Accountability court to seek third extension

MUHAMMAD ASAD CHAUDHRY & NOKHAIZ SAHI