LAHORE/Islamabad - Former premier Nawaz Sharif Monday said the Supreme Court had deprived him of the right to defend in the accountability references, as his counsel Khawaja Harris separated himself from the cases.

“My counsel Khawaja Harris has informed the accountability court in writing about his separation from the references and the grounds for his decision,” he told  a media conference at Model Town in Lahore.

Nawaz is facing three criminal references following his disqualification by the Supreme Court in the Panama case.

The defence counsel walked out of all the corruption cases against Nawaz, along with his team, stating that he could not work under so much “pressure”.

His separation from the cases came a day after SC instructed the accountability court to conclude the NAB cases against ex-PM and his family in one month.

The apex court instructed the trial court to conduct hearings even on Saturdays. When Harris insisted he will not work on the weekends, the court told him he may separate himself from the cases, as his client may hire another lawyer.

In a related development, NAB has once again written to interior ministry to put the names of Nawaz and his children on the Exit Control List (ECL).

Nawaz Sharif in his media talk did not take any question from the reporters and left the venue after reading out his point of view.

He was flanked by former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq and others.

The PML-N Quaid expressed serious reservations over the Supreme Court’s direction to the accountability court to decide the references within one month.

He said his counsel had sought another two weeks for preparation of the case but the court, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, wanted the case to be heard without any interval - even on holidays and after the regular court timings.

This, he said, was not acceptable to his counsel and he refused to continue as the defence counsel.

Nawaz said his fundamental rights have been suppressed as no lawyer is willing to defend him in the court of law in this situation.

“My counsel told the court that no lawyer can plead the defence in three cases in such a short span of time and no other lawyer is ready to defend me (Nawaz),” he said.

“Everyone thinks it is a difficult task to go through thousands of pages of the case and voluminous JIT reports, besides acquainting himself with the past proceedings of the cases,” he added.

Nawaz Sharif said, “On his request for more time, the CJP told my counsel not to pressure the court.”

He added, “The Court, by rejecting my counsel’s request, made fun of the law and the Constitution as no lawyer has ever been compelled to appear on holidays.”

The former premier called for presenting any example wherein a single case was picked up for hearing, pending thousands of others.

He said he appeared 100 times in the trial court. He questioned if there is any other case in which such haste is being made for decision by the accountability court.

The disqualified PM claimed he wanted to see his ailing spouse in London, but the CJP has refused to grant him permission for which he was deeply hurt. Nawaz said many things have been disclosed and many others are in the pipeline.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court said the other day that the Sharif family was free to visit London to meet Kalsoom.

During hearing of a case, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar expressed his anger over Nawaz Sharif’s political point scoring on this matter and said that he and others should tell the apex court when they want to go and they will be allowed to visit Kalsoom.

Nawaz Sharif in his media talk, Nawaz Sharif said his lawyers in the cases have been appearing like a machine and added the trial is going on before the accountability court, but its strings are in the control of the Supreme Court that finds no precedent in the judicial history of the country.

He further said when nothing was found out in the main references, supplementary references were brought in against him. How long they will continue to pour in, he said in the context of the supplementary references. He said they were no allegations of corruption.

Continuing his tirade against the courts, Nawaz Sharif said their plea for clubbing all the three references was also rejected notwithstanding the fact that they had emanated from the same ground and merited simultaneous decision.

Now the question has arisen whether decision on the references is important or right to defend.

“I have been put in the dock without defence while the dictator who committed breach of the constitution and hurled the country into the inferno of terrorism is being treated leniently,” he said.

“If decision before the election is a compulsion, take it, but it will be against the constitution,” he added.

Haris walks out

Nawaz Sharif’s counsel, Khawaja Harris, Monday recused himself from pursuing the case against his client, stating he could not go ahead anymore under so much ‘pressure’.

Harris along with his team withdrew the power of attorney from all the three cases filed against the former premier by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The defense counsel withdrew from the case, stating the Supreme Court had instructed the trial court to conclude the proceedings in one month by conducting hearings even on Saturdays. Harris along with his team withdrew from the case, stating they could not work under such a pressure. Harris also withdrew from the corruption reference filed against the Sharif family by the NAB.

On June 10, the Supreme Court granted another four weeks to the accountability court to wrap up the corruption references against the Sharif family within the new deadline.

To the surprise of almost everyone, Harris, instead of cross-questioning Joint Investigation Team head Wajid Zia, announced to take back his power of attorney and announced to withdraw from the case.

After the announcement, Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir questioned Nawaz Sharif, “Who will be your new lawyer or will you convince Harris?” Nawaz said, “I will tell the court after consultation. I need some time.”

The judge adjourned the hearing and instructed the defence to inform the accountability court of the availability of lawyer until Tuesday (today).

Earlier, Harris asserted he had told the Supreme Court that it was not possible for him to attend proceedings on Saturdays.

“The apex court has issued the instruction to wrap up the proceedings within four weeks, whereas I have conveyed that it will take at least six weeks to wrap up all the references. In this tough situation, it would not be easy for me to do justice to my client, so I announce to withdraw my power of attorney from this particular case because continuing with this it in this tough situation will deprive the defence of a fair trial,” he said.

Harris also said that as per the apex court order, the accountability court got the authority to wrap up any reference singularly, contrary to the petitions of the defence to club all the three references. “Our petition is already in the high court, seeking to club all the three references while the accountability court is insisting to wrap up the Avenfield properties reference as early as possible, whereas we have pleaded to listen to final arguments by uniting all the three references,” said Harris.

He also said the prosecutor took nine months to conclude their witnesses in a single reference whereas evidences were still pending in the other two references.

“After the Supreme Court’s order, the burden lies with the defence to conclude the trial and amidst this tight situation. I cannot make justice with my profession,” Harris added.

Putting Sharifs on ECL

The National Accountability Bureau has written a letter to the interior ministry to place the names of Nawaz, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, son-in-law Capt (r) Muhammad Safdar and his two sons Hasan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz on the Exit Control List (ECL) in the Avenfield properties case.

Earlier in February this year NAB had written a similar letter to the ministry for the same purpose but its request was turned down, and NAB was asked to provide valid evidence against the Sharif family for putting them on ECL.

Then Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal had said that ECL should not be used as a political instrument. He said the whole world had expressed shock over the disqualification of Nawaz in the Panama leaks case.

Also on Monday, NAB Chairman Justice (r) Javed Iqbal chaired a session in which development in the corruption cases against Nawaz and his family members was discussed.

NAB Deputy Director Muhammad Tayyab Awan said in the new letter written to the interior ministry: “I am directed to convey that the matter of placing the names of the accused persons on the ECL in the subject matter is required to be re-considered and be placed afresh before the sub-committee of the cabinet.

“This matter is agitated again in view of the fact that the references against the subject accused persons are at the final stages of trial. There is apprehension that they may leave the country to avoid legal outcome of the judgment which are expected to be announced shortly.”

According to media reports, Nawaz ad Maryam has planned to visit London to inquire after ailing Begum Kalsoom Nawaz during Eid holidays next week.