LAHORE – The legal aides of Sharif family have been activated to counter the NAB attempt to get cases against them reopened.

The legal panel, comprising senior lawyers Muhammad Akram Sheikh, Subhan Butt and Mustafa Ramday, who had previously looked after the matter on behalf of the Sharifs, is taking stock of the situation after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) decided to get the decade-old cases reopened, say the sources. They add that the Sharif family, if need arose, may fight these cases in the high court since they were devoid of any substance.

When contacted, noted lawyer Muhammad Akram Sheikh said the NAB had been an instrumental in witch-hunt, victimisation and harassment of the political opponents of the government. “It continues to act as a state wing to oppress the political adversaries,” he added.

The cases against the Sharifs are being reopened on the recommendation forwarded to the NAB chairman by a special committee that was formed to look into the cases against politicians. An Appellate Bench of the Lahore High Court has stayed the proceedings on the cases following the pardon granted to the Sharifs by former President Muhammad Rafiq Tarar.

Party sources contend before taking any decision on the NAB plea, the court must serve the notice to the Sharifs, so that they could share their side of the picture.

They say even if the cases are taken on merit without entertaining the pardon issue, the case of willful default in relation to Hudabiya Paper Mills is devoid of substance, while the allegation that the Sharifs amassed assets beyond their declared sources of income has been refuted in light of their wealth statements.

As to the case relating to Ittefaq Foundries, they say, it is pending before the court after the Sharif family, in 1998, decided to voluntarily hand over the steel units of the group to the court to let it settle the liabilities with the banks without going into the merit of the charges.

“Since the NAB law has neither scope to set up the committee nor authority to investigate / reinvestigate a reference once the same has been put before the court, its decision is illegal,” they added.

PML-N Deputy Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal termed the move a plot to victimise the Sharif family and the PML-N. He said his party firmly believed in defending the cases before the court of law following the Charter of Democracy. “The Sharifs are being victimised though the committee has many cases against other politicians as well,” he held.

Iqbal added: “The Benazir Bhutto-led second government probed the allegations and found nothing; while former President Pervez Musharraf reinvented cases on the same charges and investigated them thoroughly, but to no avail. Now the PPP government has made another attempt to investigate the cases. The PML-N is not an NRO beneficiary and will defend the cases before the court of law.”

Calling the reopening of NAB cases against the Sharifs a reflection of the government’s mala fide intentions, Zafar Ali Shah dubbed the move as illegal.