ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court Wednesday granted one month extension to accountability court for concluding the trial in three corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family.

Expressing its confidence that both sides will cooperate with the accountability court, the SC ruled for completion of the trial till June 9.

The second time extension is granted after arguments before a two-judge bench headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan which took up the request for grant of time in the Panama Case trial filed by the judge of accountability court.

The bench once again reiterated that its interest is in the fair and transparent trial of the accused envisaged under Article 10A of the Constitution.

The bench observed that it was not going to rush for a decision and wanted the rights of accused be ensured.

The hearing of the matter commenced with the query of Justice Ahsan as to why the trial had not been concluded despite the bench granted sufficient time to court on its request.

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Prosecutor Muhammad Akbar Tarrar responded that the trial from prosecution side on the reference regarding Avenfield Properties had been completed, adding, each reference was being treated separately.

Fourteen prosecution witnesses were examined till date in the reference of Flagship Investment (Ltd) and 15 other companies. Two prosecution witnesses have refused to be examined while two prosecution witnesses, JIT head Wajid Zia and NAB investigation officer M Kamran, are yet to be examined.

In the reference of Al-Azizia Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, 20 prosecution witnesses have been examined, four prosecution witnesses have given up while two prosecution witnesses, including Wajid Zia and investigation officer NAB Mehboob Alam, are yet to be examined.

In the reference against former finance minister Ishaq Dar, 28 prosecution witnesses were examined till date and 24 prosecution witnesses were yet to be examined, NAB further stated.

Justice Ahsan questioned could these references be decided independently. Prosecutor replied in affirmative. He, however, contended that the statements of the accused were yet to be recorded under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

When the bench asked as to what was the date fixed for recording of statements, the prosecutor responded that the next date of hearing was fixed for May 10 but not for the purpose of statements under Section 342 CrPC.

Questioning the delay, Justice Saeed observed the prosecutor was not cooperating in assisting the court to respond precisely.

Justice Ahsan observed that the accused might produce the witnesses in their defence. Prosecutor Tarrar said the defence counsel took 16 days in cross-examination of JIT head Wajid Zia.

Khawaja Haris, counsel for Nawaz Sharif, took the rostrum and submitted that he was not here to seek any relief but to assist the court.

Haris informed the bench that accountability court had ordered that all the three references could not be treated separately but will be decided together, three judgments on the same day.

He further informed that the cases were overlapping. He added that completion of evidence will determine whether to produce defence or not but there was no need to rush.

He requested the bench to extend the deadline by three months to complete the trial fairly.

Haris further argued that he was already drained and the timeframe was too short to complete the proceedings, adding it would be difficult ahead of Ramazan. He said that it would also be embarrassing for the accountability judge and the counsels to move to the Supreme Court time and again for extension.

Justice Ahsan observed that when the top court judges could work on Saturdays and Sundays then why not the proceedings could be carried out without any break.

“Many of our elders fought wars during the month of Ramazan,” Justice Ahsan observed. “Make us fight the wars instead,” Haris responded in a lighter note to which the courtroom echoed with laughter. 

Haris further contended that he had to argue in the trial court on hundreds of law points so one month timeframe was too short. The bench remarked that there would be no miscarriage of justice in the trial.

In March, the top court had extended the deadline by two months to accountability court for completion of the trial against Sharif family.

In July 28, 2017 Panama Papers judgment, the top court had given six months to NAB to file references and conclude the trial.