RAWALPINDI: An accountability court on Saturday again asked PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and other members of their families to appear before it on Sept 6 in two corruption references relating to Ittefaq Foundries and Raiwind assets.
Judge Chaudhry Abdul Haq adjourned till Sept 15 proceedings on the third reference — Hudaibia Paper Mills — after hearing the Sharif family’s counsel Akram Sheikh and Additional Prosecutor General of NAB Chaudhry Mohammad Riaz.
Taking up a NAB application seeking revival of the references on July 18, the accountability court had summoned Nawaz Sharif, Shahabaz Sharif, Mohammad Abbas Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Shamim Akhtar (mother of Nawaz Sharif), Sabiha Abbas, Maryam Safdar and Ishaq Dar and Kamal Qureshi on Saturday.
Advocate Sheikh presented papers of attorney of all the respondents, except Sabiha Abbas and Maryam Safdar because they were abroad. He assured the court that he would provide the same about Ms Abbas and Ms Safdar at the next hearing.
The counsel said that NAB wanted to use the references for politically victimising the Sharif family. He said these were 12-year-old references and under the NAB Ordinance proceedings on these should have been completed within 30 days of their filing.
He said that in order to keep the Sharif family under a hanging sword, former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf had delayed the matter and after him the present PPP government was using the references to pressurise its political rival.
He informed the court that the references had been filed on March 27, 2000, when the Sharif brothers were detained in Attock Fort. On April 4, 2001, the references were adjourned sine die.
He said NAB had filed an application for revival of the references on Aug 8, 2007, but the court did not proceed with the matter which was again adjourned sine die in Aug 2008 because it was not routed through the NAB chairman. Another application filed by NAB in Feb 2010 was rejected on the same grounds.
The counsel pointed out that under section 31-B of the NAB Ordinance, once a reference was adjourned sine die it could not be revived, adding that the court had wrongly summoned members of the Sharif family as well as Mr Dar who later turned a witness in the case.
He argued that since the Lahore High Court had in October last year issued a stay order on a petition of the Sharif brothers seeking quashment of the references, the accountability court being a subordinate to the LHC could not proceed with the case.
NAB’s Additional Prosecutor General Chaudhry Riaz informed the court that the LHC had restrained the government from proceeding against the Sharif family but not asked NAB or the accountability court to stop proceedings against them.
“The federation shall not proceed with the reference; however, this order shall not affect any application that may be moved by Respondent No 2 (NAB) for revival of the reference,” he quoted from the LHC’s order.
Mr Riaz said NAB was an autonomous organisation and not answerable to the federal government. Therefore, a restraining order issued to the federal government did not stop the bureau from proceeding against the Sharif family, he added.
He said a delay in the matter was not deliberate. Earlier the Sharifs went to Saudi Arabia in exile and later the application could not be filed because of the post of NAB’s chairman was vacant.
In the state versus Hudaibia Paper Mills (Pvt) Ltd, nine members of the Sharif family are accused of committing corruption of Rs642.743 million.
The second reference – state versus Nawaz Sharif, etc., relates to Raiwind assets. The main allegation in the reference is that the accused had acquired vast tracts of land upon which a number of palatial houses and mansions were built with resources which appeared to be grossly disproportionate to their known sources of income. Apart from Mr Sharif, his mother is an accused in the case.
In the state versus Ittefaq Foundries, etc., case, Nawaz Sharif, his brother Abbas Sharif and Kamal Qureshi are accused of committing corruption of Rs1,063 million. The main allegation in the case is that Ittefaq Foundries Ltd obtained cash finance from the National Bank.
As per NAB allegations, the company wilfully defaulted to pay back the amount in 1994.
Talking to reporters outside the court, Advocate Sheikh accused NAB Chairman Fasih Bokhari of filing the application to appease the government and secure his job.