LAHORE - The Sharifs have asked NAB to wait decision on their review petitions before framing references against them.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his sons Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz were called by the National Accountability Bureau at its Lahore Directorate yesterday for questioning over Azizia Steel Mills by a team of Rawalpindi Directorate, but none of them turned up.

The Sharifs took the plea of not receiving the notices for the appearance while NAB sources say the notices were served at Jatti Umra residence of the Sharifs and were duly received. Media reports said NAB has decided to again serve notice on the respondents soon.

A very tight security was maintained in and around NAB Lahore office as the Rawalpindi team kept waiting for the former prime minister and his sons who had been asked to reach at the Directorate at 11am.

NAB officials were also to question Ishaq Dar and Tariq Shafi who had been asked to appear around 3pm, but they too did not turn up to record their statements. Sources said Dar was in Dubai yesterday, the day of appearance.

In its July 28 decision in Panama leaks case, the Supreme Court not only disqualified ex-PM Nawaz Sharif but also directed NAB to prepare references against Sharif family and others, making use of the evidence collected by the JIT.

The anti-graft body was directed to place the references before the accountability court for trial within six weeks period, which is ending on September 8.

Besides the Azizia Mills case, the anti-corruption watchdog is preparing three other references – two of them against Sharifs and one against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and others.

The electronic media reported that the Sharifs through their counsel has now asked the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to hold back framing the references against them till decision on the review petitions they have filed against the Supreme Court judgement in Panama Papers case.

Nawaz Sharif through his counsel Amjad Pervez addressed to the head of the Combined Investigation Team of NAB, saying that he received the notice today (Friday) and presenting the review petitions he has filed against the SC decision as an excuse for his non-appearance.

Commenting on the issue, senior lawyer Babar Sattar said the excuse given by Sharifs for non-appearance is flimsy.

He said that a review plea has a very limited scope and that too on the error that floats on the face of the main judgment. A review petition seldom upsets the original decision, he said, noting that the Supreme Court had held a prolonged and comprehensive hearing of the Panama case.

He said the Sharifs probably wanted to remain on the safe side as they might have fears that they could state such things before NAB as may become incriminating evidence against them eventually.

Asked if their non-appearance amounted to the contempt of court, Babar replied in negative. The lawyer said Sharifs previously had been appearing before the JIT in pursuance of the Supreme Court’s ‘expressed directions’, something which was not here in NAB’s case.

He said NAB was calling the Sharifs to provide them defence against the allegations and if they don’t appear despite repeated calls, NAB can complete and file the references without hearing them.

State Minister Talal Ch said the Sharifs and many other people have reservations on the SC decision, therefore, NAB should not rush to frame references before things are cleared through the review. He said it is also demand of the fair justice that concerns and objections to the decision are addressed before proceeding further in the matter.