ISLAMABAD  -  The Supreme Court on Monday granted six weeks to the National Accountability Bureau and Accountability Court for completion of trial against Sharif family in Al-Azizia Mills and Flagship Investments references.

The top court granted the time on the written request filed by Accountability Court Judge Arshad Malik.

Deposed Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and his son-in-law Muhammad Safdar had been convicted in Avenfield Reference, however, the remaining two references are pending adjudication.

The latest extension granted to accountability watchdog is the fifth one.

On expiration of the timeframe given in July 28 Panama case verdict, the top court on March 7 granted two months’ extension for completion of the trial.

In May, the top court again on the request granted extension and directed to complete the trial till June 9. 

Likewise, the top court in June again granted one more month time for completion of the trial till July 9 and on July 10 the deadline was extended till August 25.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umer Ata Bandial and monitoring judge in Panama Case Justice Ijazul Ahsan, following hearing on the written request, also ruled that the accountability court’s judge shall submit weekly progress reports.

During the hearing, NAB’s prosecutor explained the timeline of progress in the accountability court and informed the bench that statements of Wajid Zia, head of Panama JIT, were yet to be recorded in the references. He requested the bench for extension of time.

During the course of hearing, Advocate Khawaja Haris, who is representing deposed Nawaz Sharif, contended before the bench that it would be difficult for him to appear in both accountability court and Islamabad High Court (IHC) if the latter court started hearing the appeal in the Avenfield Reference.

However, the chief justice remarked that the defence counsel would have to work on Saturdays as well in such a situation as the judges were also doing so.

The Chief Justice also hoped that the Advocate Haris would complete his defence within the stipulated time.

Later, Chairman NAB Javed Iqbal and Prosecutor General NAB Syed Asghar Haider called on Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar in his chamber where the chairman was asked for maintaining secrecy till the filing of reference against any individual so that no embarrassment is caused to anyone.

Meanwhile, in Accountability Court, Khawaja Harris held cross-questioning with Panama Joint Investigation Team head on Panama papers Wajid Zia.

The hearing against Nawaz Sharif in the corruption references was resumed Monday in Accountability Court and former premier was produced before the court in foolproof security.

During cross-questioning, Khawaja Harris asked Wajid Zia whether he has informed the court in the Avenfield Properties reference that the JIT team had decided not to send questionnaire to two witnesses. Wajid Zia replied that it was unanimously decided by the Panama JIT team not to send questionnaire to any witness in advance.

The NAB prosecutor while objecting to the query stated this is an irrelevant question as the query has no relevance to the prevailing references being heard in this court.

 The defence counsel further asked Wajid Zia whether he during his 29-year career finds any such section of law, which prohibits sending questionnaire to witness.

Zia replied that any such law did not come across him, which obstructs the possibility to send questionnaire to witness, adding that he also did not find any such law which allows sending questionnaire to witness in advance.

The defence counsel also asked Wajid Zia whether Qatari Prince Hammad bin Jassam had written a letter to him on June 17, 2017. Wajid Zia replied that Jassam had requested to have access to the questionnaire in advance. Harris said that he (Zia) accepted his offer to record his statement by visiting him in Doha but did not acknowledge his request to send him questionnaire in advance. Wajid Zia replied that Panama JIT team did not allow Hammad bin Jassam to have questionnaire in advance adding that it was decided unanimously in the JIT meeting that questionnaire in advance will not be given to any witness. On this, Khawaja Harris questioned Wajid Zia whether this decision was made part of the JIT report then the JIT head replied with no.

Later, the court adjourned hearing in Al-Azizia Steel Mills Reference and Flagship investment references till today morning. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will also be presented in the court on Tuesday as well.

During the break in hearing, the PML-N leaders arranged tea but the former PM could not take tea due to proper sitting arrangements. Senators Ghous and Nasir Butt brought a bottle of water for Nawaz Sharif but the guards returned the bottle and provided water to ex-PM by themselves.

 

 

SYED SABEEHUL HUSSNAIN,

NOKHAIZ SAHI