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Sharifs refuse to join London flats probe

August 23, 2017

LAHORE: Refusing to budge from their stance of not joining the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) proceedings pertaining to four upscale Avenfield flats in London, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Captain Muhammad Safdar categorically refused to appear before NAB’s Combined Investigation Team (CIT) on Tuesday, terming its proceedings complete eyewash.

However, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar asked the CIT in writing to wait for a decision by the Supreme Court on his review petition against the Panama Papers judgement, in which NAB was directed to file a reference against him for owning assets beyond known sources of income.

The counsel for the Sharif family, Advocate Amjad Pervez, confirmed that his associate had taken written replies from the four to the relevant authorities at NAB’s Lahore office. The identical replies, filed on behalf of Mr Sharif, Ms Maryam and Mr Safdar, mainly questioned the proceedings of the CIT for being in violation of the NAB Ordinance 1999 and the Bureau’s SOPs in dealing with such cases.

Their lawyer said as per the set law and NAB’s process, a case was supposed to pass through various stages including the verification of a complaint, the authorisation of inquiry and upgrade of the inquiry into investigation after due appraisal of material and evidence in accordance with the law at various tiers of the Bureau’s hierarchy.

According to the replies sent to NAB, under law, the NAB chairperson or another officer empowered by the chairperson had the authority to decide whether it was proper or just to proceed further and whether there was sufficient material to justify filing a reference.

Term NAB proceedings ‘eyewash’

He stated that it was settled law that proceedings by NAB at every stage were amenable to judicial review.

Advocate Pervez argued that in this case, the mandatory provisions of the NAB ordinance had not been followed rather a direct order had been issued by the Supreme Court for filing references against the Sharif family.

The lawyer said his clients had been deprived of not only their statutory rights but also their fundamental rights including the rights to due process and fair trial. For that reason, he added, a review petition had already been filed before the Supreme Court to recall the Panamagate judgement, which had also disqualified Mr Sharif from office.

“In the peculiar circumstances of the case, where the decision to file a reference had already been taken, the proceedings being carried out by NAB are merely eyewash. Hence, my clients are unable to attend these proceedings,” the reply concluded.

The NAB’s investigation team had on Aug 18 issued fresh summons to the Sharif family under Section 19 of the NAB Ordinance 1999 requiring them to join the proceedings pertaining to the Avenfield properties in London.

Regarding Finance Minister Dar’s case, the counsel said his client’s career had already been looked into by NAB and the matter, after due scrutiny at various tiers of NAB, had been recommended for closure.

He said an executive board meeting of the Bureau on July 15, 2016 had also approved the closure of the case against Mr Dar.

He said since a direction had already been issued by the SC for filing of a reference, no explanation whatsoever was likely to persuade NAB to reverse the process. Referring to the review petition filed by the minister, the lawyer said, “My client is sanguine that his review petition will succeed on merit. In the peculiar circumstances, it is requested that the decision of the above said review petition be kindly awaited in the interest of justice.”

Previously, a spokesperson for the Sharif family had cast doubts over whether the family would appear before the CIT, saying that they had not received any summons.

According to sources, a team from NAB’s Rawalpindi office is stationed at the Bureau’s Lahore office to record the statements of the Sharif family members before filing references ordered by the apex court.

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2017