Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar leave court as hearing of ‘clubbing plea’ under way


ISLAMABAD Nov 07 (TNS): Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, along with daughter Maryam and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar, appeared on Tuesday in the accountability court hearing corruption cases against them.

Today was the first time the three arrived together for the hearing as previously the father-daughter entourage would not include Safdar, a party lawmaker from Mansehra.

Today, the court heard the plea of Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Harris seeking to club the three Supreme Court-directed references into one.

Harris argued that the nature of cases, as well as the defence and prosecution of all the references, is the same — thus they should be clubbed together.

The regular proceedings of the case will resume once the plea is settled.

The court then went into a short recess, allowing the accused to leave the courtroom.

Once the hearing resumes, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) will present its arguments before the bench opposing the plea.

At the last hearing on November 3, Judge Mohammad Bashir adjourned proceedings in light of the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) order directing it to re-hear Nawaz’s plea seeking to club the three references into one.

In his petition, Nawaz pleaded the IHC to declare the October 19 decision of the court rejecting their clubbing plea illegal and order the accountability court to combine the three references against him into one.

Maryam and Safdar, along with Nawaz and his sons Hussain and Hasan, face corruption charges in the Avenfield properties case.

Moreover, Nawaz has been accused in two other references alongside his sons: Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investment Limited.

Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar have been indicted in the cases whereas Nawaz’s sons have yet to appear before the court and will soon be declared proclaimed offenders.

Nawaz and Maryam reached Islamabad from Lahore on Monday after which the former premier held a meeting with his legal and political aides at Punjab House.

A number of cabinet members and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders are at the court complex to welcome their ‘leader’.

The references

The NAB has in total filed three references against the Sharif family and one against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the accountability court, in light of the Supreme Court’s orders in the Panama Papers case verdict of July 28.

The anti-graft body was given six weeks, from the date of the apex court’s order, to file the reference in an accountability court while the accountability court was granted six months to wrap up the proceedings.

The references against the Sharif family pertain to the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, their London properties and over dozen offshore companies owned by the family.

Maryam and Safdar are only nominated in the London properties reference. At an earlier hearing, the court also approved Maryam and Safdar’s bail in the Avenfiled properties case and ordered them to submit surety bonds worth Rs5 million each.

Safdar was also directed to take the court’s permission before leaving the country from now on. The judge also provided a copy of the reference — spread over 53 volumes — to Maryam and Safdar.

NAB’s Rawalpindi branch prepared two references regarding the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, and the nearly dozen companies owned by the Sharif family.

Its Lahore branch prepared a reference on the Sharif family’s Avenfield apartments in London and another against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for owning assets beyond his known sources of income.

If convicted, the accused may face up to 14 years imprisonment and lifelong disqualification from holding public office including the freezing of bank accounts and assets.