ISLAMABAD - Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif once again came down hard on the superior judiciary yesterday accusing the judges of using unbecoming language, similar to the one used by his arch political rival Imran Khan.

He said the ‘PCO judges’ were using such language in their remarks as does not suit them and was a disgrace to their office.

Nawaz was talking to the journalists after attending the Accountability Court, which is hearing corruption references against him and his family. The court on Thursday rejected Sharifs’ request for exempting them from appearance.

“Is there any difference between the language of the Chief Justice of Pakistan [Saqib Nisar] and the one being used by Imran Khan?” asked the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president.

“... They [judges] were calling us dons, Sicilian mafia and godfathers; and now they are calling us thieves and robbers,” he said, shortly after saying that he does not even want to repeat those words.

If the CJP and Imran use the same language then what was the difference between the two, he asked. “Isn’t this [kind of language] an insult to their [judges’] stature?” Nawaz Sharif raised the question.

“Is there a law for those who are using such type of words [to punish them], he asked, in a veiled reference to the case of his party leader Nehal Hashmi, who has been disqualified as senator and jailed for a month for issuing threats to the judges.

The ex-PM continued that a person who takes oath under PCO [provisional constitutional ordinance] introduced by a dictator commits treason to his oath of the constitution. He added that the judges who took oath under Pervez Musharraf are PCO judges.

“Will [these] PCO judges now give us lessons on morality?” he asked, making it clear, “We are not ready to accept such lessons.” He said that every person has self-respect and they will not compromise on their self-respect.

His daughter Maryum Nawaz, on the occasion, said those who make fun of Constitution and law should be put on Exit Control List (ECL).

She was referring to a request from National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for putting Nawaz and his children’s names on the ECL so they could not flee the country to avoid the corruption cases against them.

Maryam stated that she and her father had come back to Pakistan from London to appear before the court in “fake and bogus” cases.

Earlier, Nawaz, his daughter and his son-in-law Muhammad Safdar appeared before the Islamabad Accountability Court for hearing of three corruption references against them.

Several PML-N leaders including Senator Raheela Magsi, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Abdul Qadir Baloch, Pervaiz Rasheed, Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha and Abid Sher Ali accompanied them to the courtroom.

Court proceedings

Judge Muhammad Bashir took up the application of the three accused – Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar –seeking exemption from court appearance for a fortnight starting from February 19. He dismissed the request after hearing the arguments of both prosecution and defence sides.

Sharif family adopted in their applications that they have to visit the ailing Kalsoom Nawaz in London. Khawaja Haris Ahmed, counsel for Nawaz Sharif contended that his client may be exempted from personal appearance as his wife is under treatment in London and he has to visit her.

The defence counsel informed the court that six cycles of chemotherapy of Kalsoom have been completed and now the doctors have to conduct her more tests, for which presence of the accused [Nawaz] was mandatory.

Deputy Prosecutor General Accountability (DPGA) Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi made counter argument that the accused have requested for exemption at a stage when the trial has almost concluded and material evidence submitted.

He added that the permission could not be granted as NAB has recommended the interior ministry to put names of the accused on the ECL, fearing they would flee the country to escape likely punishment.

At this Nawaz Sharif’s counsel said that the court may mention in its order that if the names are not on the ECL, the applicants may be allowed to travel abroad.

He said that this court has to record statements of the two prosecution witnesses in Avenfield supplementary reference from Pakistan High Commission in London through a video link on February 22.

Mentioning an Islamabad High Court order that had permitted Sharif family to appoint their representative/counsel for recording of the evidence of two British nationals - Robert W Radley and Akhtar Raja – the counsel adopted that it would be easier for Nawaz to appoint a representative in London if he himself reaches there.

But NAB prosecutor contended that under section 540-A of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) presence of the accused was necessary before the court.

Abbasi pointed out that Nawaz’s two sons were already proclaimed offenders in the case.

The judge reserved his order for a while after hearing arguments from both sides and later announced dismissal of applications for exemption.

Witness statements

During Thursday’s proceedings, four prosecution witnesses recorded their statements before the court in Avenfield properties supplementary reference.

They were Mubashir Tauqeer Shah and Muhammad Sultan Nazir from the Ministry of Information, Waqas Ahmed - an employee of a private TV channel - and Zawar Manzoor – a NAB assistant director.

Director External Publicity Wing Mubashir Shah informed the court that he handed over a recording and transcript of Hassan Nawaz’s BBC interview to the NAB investigators. During cross-examination, he said that NAB investigation officer did not record his statement.

Sultan Nazir said that he handed over NAB recordings and transcript of Nawaz Sharif’s interviews and his address to the parliament. NAB investigators also recorded his statement, he added.

Waqas Ahmad testified that he had produced a CD and verified transcript of two TV programmes to the NAB investigators. “I have joined investigation on January 10, 2018 and they recorded my statement,” he said.

During the hearing, Nawaz Sharif’s counsel was provided with the copies of supplementary corruption references in Flagship and Azizia that NAB filed on February 14. Later, the court adjourned the hearing until February 22.