ISLAMABAD: As the accountability court on Wednesday formally initiated trial proceedings against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law MNA Capt (r) Safdar in three graft references filed against the Sharif family by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), it approved the plea of Nawaz Sharif and daughter Maryam Nawaz seeking exemption from personal appearance during court hearings.
Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir had earlier reserved the verdict in both the applications.
Before the hearing began on Wednesday, Nawaz pleaded with the court seeking an exemption from the court appearances from November 20 for a week as the next round of his wife’s chemotherapy sessions is about to begin. He claimed that his pleader, Zafir Khan would ensure appearances on his behalf during his absence.
“We have been together for 40 years, I can’t abandon my wife in testing times,” Sharif stated in his application.
Maryam also submitted an exemption plea, stating her pleader Jahangir Jadoon will appear on her behalf when required. Maryam stated that she would present herself in court whenever there is a hearing, however, if she has to leave the country in case of an emergency, the court should allow her representative — Jahangir Jadoon — to appear in court on her behalf.
The NAB prosecutors had objected to both the application stating that Nawaz and his daughter are not ill and therefore their appearance for the court hearings must be ensured.
Prosecution witnesses record statements
As the court proceedings went underway on Wednesday, prosecution witness, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s (SECP) joint registrar, Sidra Mansoor recorded her statement in the Avenfield flats reference. She informed the judge that she had appeared before the NAB Lahore team on August 18 and also provided the required documents. She further claimed that she had provided the bureau with the 2000-2005 audit report of Hudabiya Paper Mills.
Raising objections, the counsels of Nawaz and his children, Khawaja Harris and Amjad Pervez stated that the witness had provided photocopies with missing official seals and signatures of companies.
Following the recording of the statement, Mansoor was cross-examined.
During Wednesday’s court proceedings, Jahangir Ahmed of Inland Revenue Department also recorded his statement and submitted the Sharif family’s income tax returns to the court.
Ahmad has been called to appear in court again on November 22 for cross-questioning in the next hearing of the case.
Moreover, Hussain and Hasan Nawaz were also declared proclaimed offenders. The two brothers, who are based outside the country failed to appear for any of the graft hearings.
The Sharifs had then exited the court leaving Nawaz’s representative Zafir Khan to attend the remaining proceedings on his behalf.
Earlier, Nawaz Sharif accompanied by Maryam Nawaz and her husband MNA Capt (r) Safdar reached the accountability court amid tight security.
A number of workers and leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz were present inside and outside the court premises to welcome the party president.
Nawaz, along with Maryam and Safdar had earlier reached Islamabad from Lahore.
Nawaz and his two sons, Hussain and Hasan, are nominated in all three references while Maryam and Safdar are facing charges in one reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in light of the Supreme Court’s July 28 judgment in the Panama Papers case.
At the hearing of the references on Oct 9, Judge Muhammad Bashir had accepted NAB’s plea to declare Hussain and Hassan proclaimed offenders and separated their trial proceedings in the three references filed against them.
As the 30-day deadline given to Hussain and Hassan Nawaz to appear before the accountability court hearing corruption cases against them expired on Nov 10, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) during Tuesday’s hearing had requested the accountability court to seize the properties of the scions of the Sharif family.
IHC to hear Nawaz’s petition for clubbing references on Nov 20
Meanwhile, in response to a plea filed by Nawaz in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday challenging the accountability court’s dismissal of his application to club three corruption references against him and his family into one, the court has fixed Nov 20 as the date for the next hearing.The IHC has also sent notices to NAB in this regard.
Also on Tuesday, the bench had rejected a miscellaneous application of the former prime minister seeking to restrain the trial court from proceeding in the NAB references until his application is decided.