ISLAMABAD - A division bench of the Islamabad High Court on Tuesday deferred the hearing on a petition of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif seeking directives for the accountability court to announce its verdict simultaneously in the three corruption references, filed against him by the NAB, as decided by it (trial court) earlier on November 8, 2017.

When the IHC division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani took up the petition, the former prime minister adopted that the accountability court was deviating from an ‘earlier understanding’.

During the hearing, an associate of Khawaja Haris, the counsel for Sharif, appeared before the court and submitted a request to withdraw his Wakalatnama. National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi adopted that Sharif’s petition has become infructuous after a decision of the Supreme Court in this matter. Later, the court deferred the hearing till June 20.

According to the petition, last Tuesday, the trial court rejected an application of Sharif for the postponement of the final arguments in Avenfield apartments corruption reference as his counsel Khawaja Haris intended to first complete the statement and cross-examination of JIT head Wajid Zia in all the three references including Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment.

However, the trial court permitted the prosecution to forward final arguments in Avenfield apartments’ references by halting the ongoing cross-examination in Al-Azizia reference.

Rejecting Sharif’s application, the trial court noted in its June 5 order, “Accused has not produced any defence witness in this (Avenfield) reference. He has also not opted to be examined on oath u/s 340(2) CrPC. Therefore, the reason for rendering the decision simultaneously in all the three references is not existing at present”. “With this order, the trial court has expressed its mind that it would decide the Avenfield apartments’ corruption reference first.” Sharif in his recent petition has adopted before the IHC to set aside the accountability court decision.

Earlier on November 8, 2017, the AC judge had observed in his judgment, “In order to avoid conflicting judgments or any likelihood of ignoring any defense that will be produced by the applicant/accused in each reference, all the three references shall be decided simultaneously.”

Sharif in his application before the IHC has cited the NAB, the AC judge and Maryam, Hussain, Hassan Nawaz and Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar as respondents.

He has argued that the main allegation against the petitioner (Sharif) was that he possessed assets beyond means and under the law such a case should be tried in a single reference, unlike the multiple references. His petition for one reference was twice dismissed by the Supreme Court on technical grounds and the petitioner still holds on to view that under such an allegation only one reference could be filed.

He said that later the petitioner filed an application before the trial court requesting to club the three references and conduct a joint trial as all the three references were based on a nine-volume JIT report and common witnesses. The trial court, however, dismissed that application on November 8, 2017.

Then, the petitioner challenged the same order before the IHC and his petition was dismissed on November 23, 2017.

In the recent petition, Sharif has maintained that Wajid Zia was bound by the trial court to record his statement in all the three corruption references simultaneously. To the surprise of the petitioner when, he (Wajid Zia) completed with this cross-examination in Avenfield apartments corruption reference, the prosecution filed an application for summoning DG NAB operation Zahir Shah to produce him as a witness.

He said that it was a clear-cut deviation by the AC judge from the representation held earlier. He has also contended that all the references have at least 60 percent of propositions of fact and 90 percent of propositions of law which were common to them.

He further said that it did not suit the court to take up the reference for a decision separately and independently of the other two references without recalling any of the earlier orders or recording any reason whatsoever for deviating from the same.

He has prayed to the court to set aside the trial court order dated June 5 by declaring it illegal and without lawful authority.