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ISLAMABAD: Apparently deviating from its earlier stance that all three corruption references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the Sharif family would be decided simultaneously, the accountability court held on Tuesday that no such reason existed at present.
“Accused has not produced any defence witness in this reference. He has also not opted to be examined on oath under section 340 (2) Cr PC. Therefore, the reason for rendering the decision simultaneously in all the three references in not existing at present,” Judge Muhammad Bashir stated in the order on Tuesday.
Subsequently, the court dismissed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s request to postpone final arguments till evidence is recorded in all three references and NAB started presenting final arguments against Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Capt (retd) Safdar in the Avenfield Apartments reference as well as Sharif’s sons, Hassan Nawaz and
Hussain Nawaz, who are still absconding.
In his order, the judge stated that all three cases were not allowed to be clubbed for joint trial earlier. He added that apart from Sharif, two other accused facing trial in the Avenfield Apartments reference — Maryam and Safdar — were not accused in other two references. Also, Maryam and Safdar had not filed any application for postponement of final arguments, he added further.
“Thus, no convincing reason is shown for postponement of arguments in the present reference. The application stands dismissed,” the order read.
When the case was taken up, Sharif’s counsel Barrister Saad Hashmi filed an application requesting the court to postpone final arguments until NAB witnesses – head of Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT) Wajid Zia and two investigation officers in Al-Azizia & Hill Metal and Flagship references – record their statements and are cross-examined.
In the application, Barrister Hashmi drew court’s attention towards its earlier order passed on November 8, 2017, wherein the court while dismissing the application had observed that “in order to avoid conflicting judgments or any likelihood of ignoring any defence that will be produced by the applicant/ accused in each reference, all the three references shall be decided simultaneously.”
The court had further held that “a request can be made to the trial court for cross-examination of joint references on the same date or on the following day so that they have little or no chance for thinking and improving upon what is to be said.”
The counsel argued that subsequently an application was filed with the prayer that Zia’s statement be recorded in all three references and thereafter cross-examination on the same or successive dates of hearing as “he is a common witness in the references”.
The court had, however, dismissed the plea yet again and reiterated in no uncertain terms that “… all the three references should be decided simultaneously. So those shall be decided simultaneously.”
On the other hand, Additional Deputy Prosecutor General (ADPG) of NAB Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said that the prosecution was ready for final arguments and the defence side was avoiding and seeking postponement of final arguments.
The ADPG said the court had fixed the case for final arguments in the presence of the counsel from both sides but the defence was now reluctant to argue their case. He requested the court to dismiss the application.
When the application was dismissed, Barrister Hashmi said an appeal against the order would be filed before the court on Wednesday (today).
NAB’s final arguments
Following the arguments and dismissal of the application, the ADPG began presenting final arguments in the London properties reference. In his arguments, he said, the prosecution had established its case ‘beyond any shadow of doubt’ and “there is not an iota of evidence produced in the defence”, adding that the defence side had to prove its innocence now.
He said that the statement of accused did not mention anythingcontradicting the prosecution evidence, adding that Maryam and Safdar did not either produce any witness of trust deed in order to prove their stance.
Abbasi argued that forensic expert Robert William Radley had declared the trust deed “fake”. He added that the Sharif family said that the Qatari royal expressed his willingness to record his evidence but did not even produce him in their defence.
The NAB prosecutor said that London properties were owned by Sharifs since 1993, these were ‘Benami’ properties of Sharif, the deposed PM, as his children had no independent source of income when these properties were acquired.
Under Qanoon-e-Shahadat, Abbasi said, “If a person is accused of travelling without a ticket in a train, burden of proof is on him to produce the ticket and claim innocence. This is a case of assets beyond means. Now the accused have to prove their means.”
The NAB prosecutor would continue his arguments on Wednesday (today).