Lahore  - The Supreme Court on Sunday gave a third one-month extension to Islamabad accountability court to conclude the graft cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members.

A two-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan heard the issue of allowing more time for the trial in the three corruption references – which the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has filed in light of the apex court’s verdict in Panama Papers case.

Khwaja Haris had filed a plea on behalf of Nawaz Sharif for concluding the trial in six weeks. The lawyer submitted that JIT head Wajid Zia was being cross-examined in Al Azizia reference while the statement of investigation officer was yet to be recorded. He said the decision could not be announced yet.

But the top court rejected a plea and gave only one more month to the NAB court to conclude all three references by holding daily hearings even on Saturdays and Sundays. The CJP hinted that no further time extension will be granted to the accountability court.

“These cases should be concluded now. The accused as well the entire nation is experiencing a mental agony and this situation should be over,” Justice Nisar directed trial court judge Muhammad Bashir.

On it, Haris said that he does not work on Sundays or beyond the regular court timings on other days of week.

Addressing him, the CJP remarked, “If I could work till midnight then why don’t you do it. You are a young man.”

But Haris insisted that the chief justice could not bind him to work on Sundays. He also said that his client is ready to go to jail but he does not want hurriedly done justice.

The CJP observed, “God knows better whether your client is going to jail or not but you can’t make it a plea to not work on Saturdays or Sundays. Ask your client to hire another lawyer if you are not willing to work on Sundays... They [accused] can go to see Ms Kalsoom Nawaz if they want to.”

Referring to the criticism by Nawaz Sharif, the top judge regretted that “they hail the courts when any decision comes in their favour and criticise if it is otherwise”.

“You propagate that the [accountability] court does not allow you to visit ailing Kalsoom in London just to earn publicity. Tell me when you want to go and we’ll allow you the visit at once,” he said

“How long will it take Nawaz to return from London?” he asked, making it clear that the court would not allow the accused to abuse it if the decision comes against them.

On July 28, 2017 the top court announced verdict in Panama Papers case and disqualified Nawaz Sharif as a parliamentarian, making him lose premiership.

The top court also directed the NAB to file three corruption references against Sharif family and one against former finance minister Ishaq Dar, and gave six months time to the accountability court to conclude the trial.

On expiry of the deadline in mid-March, a two-month extension was granted by SC on NAB court’s asking. When that deadline too expired in May, the apex court granted another extension that expired on Saturday (June 9), and now a third extension of one month has been granted.

On June 4, accountability court judge Muhammad Bashir, during the hearing of Al-Azizia reference, had remarked that he would write a letter to the Supreme Court seeking another extension to conclude the corruption references against the Sharif family.

The NAB had moved references against Sharifs regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment; offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd; and Avenfield properties of London.

Nawaz Sharif is accused in all the three references. His sons Hasan and Hussain Nawaz, and his daughter Maryam Safdar as well as her husband Captain (r) Muhammad Safdar are accused in Avenfield properties [better know as London flats] case only.

Hasan and Hussain were declared proclaimed offenders by the court as they both have been absconding since the proceedings commenced last year after the panamagate verdict.

CJP summons Hamza Shehbaz

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib has sought personal appearance of Hamza Shehbaz – son of former Punjab CM Shehbaz Sharif – and Ayehsa Ahad Malik – who claims to be Hamza’s wife.

Taking up human rights’ cases at the SC Lahore registry, the top judge observed that If Hamza is in the town then he should appear before the court “tomorrow” (Monday).

A woman lawyer representing Ayesha appeared before the court and said that FIR has been registered against Hamza and others but no arrest had been made so far.

PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz and five others were booked in a case after Ayesha approached the top court seeking action over alleged abduction and torture on her and her daughter.

She said she and her daughter were also issued life threats and their possessions - including jewellery, a mobile phone and her purse – were snatched. She also alleged that people sent by Hamza forcefully took her laptop, nikahnama (marriage certificate) and other documents.

Ayesha Ahad also moved another complaint against Hamza, Ali Imran and others.

According to the FIR registered on June 2, Hamza and five others were accused of committing violence, robbery, usurpation, vandalism, threats to life and attempted rape.

Former Inspector-General Police Rana Maqbool, Zulfiqar Cheema, Inspector Ateeq Dogar and Imran Yousuf were also booked, according to CCPO Lahore  Captain (r) Amin Wains.

Another police officer said that Sections 342 (wrongful confinement), 506 (criminal intimidation), 337 (hurt and injuries), and 354 (molestation with sexual motive), as well as the Code of Criminal Procedure Sections 149 (rioting armed with deadly weapon) and 511 (attempting to commit punishable offences) of Pakistan Penal Code had been included in the FIR registered against the accused.

The complaint moved by Ayesha Ahad in 2011 was also made part of the latest FIR.

Hamza Shehbaz however had rejected the claims of Ayesha, saying that the allegations levelled against him were baseless. He said that she made the same claims previously but failed to furnish the evidence.

 

 

Court told to conclude Sharifs’ trial in a month

 

FIDA HUSSNAIN