ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who returned to the country on Monday morning, is set to appear before a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) court today (Tuesday) in connection with three corruption references.
A number of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders, including federal ministers, are expected to accompany the former prime minister at his first appearance before the accountability court, which had summoned Mr Sharif after his failure to appear at an earlier hearing on Sept 19.
The court had also summoned Mr Sharif’s sons — Hussain and Hassan — but they will not be appearing today as they are still in London tending to their mother, who is undergoing cancer treatment.
Sources in the PML-N told Dawn that the counsel for Mr Sharif’s sons would ask the court to exempt his clients from personal appearance since they were looking after Kulsoom Nawaz.
Mr Sharif’s political secretary Asif Kirmani told reporters outside Punjab House that the former prime minister would hold a press conference today (Tuesday) after appearing before the NAB court.
The former prime minister was received by a number of party leaders, including National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq and cabinet ministers, at the airport and was whisked to Punjab House amid tight security.
Mr Kirmani said that the former PM held a number of informal meetings and consulted senior party leaders, as well as members of his legal team, to devise strategies to deal with the legal and political challenges facing the party.
Ex-PM confers with PML-N leaders, including Nisar, soon after return from London
The most significant development of the day was Mr Sharif’s meeting with former interior minister and estranged PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. The latter spent a considerable amount of time at Punjab House after holding a one-on-one meeting with the former prime minister.
Chaudhry Nisar has been openly criticising PML-N’s strategy in dealing with the issues related to the military and judiciary and was critical of the party’s policy after the July 28 verdict of the apex court in the Panama Papers case.
A senior PML-N leader and party office-bearers told Dawn that the Nawaz-Nisar meeting materialised due to the efforts of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who is still in London and expected to return in the next few days.
The sources said that the former interior minister was not feeling comfortable due to a knee ailment, and was seen sitting in an unusual posture since he was unable to bend his legs.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also visited Punjab House in the evening and held consultations with his predecessor on issues related to governance.
Others who called on Mr Sharif included PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq, Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi, Punjab Governor Rafiq Rajwana, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, ministers Zahid Hamid, Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Abdul Qadir Baloch, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Daniyal Aziz and Talal Chaudhry.
Speaking to reporters in London before leaving for Islamabad, the former prime minister had said that he had come to the UK only to inquire after the health of his wife and had no plans to stay for a long time.
The Sharif family had earlier opted to boycott court proceedings. However, the sources said they changed their mind and decided to appear before the courts on the advice of a number of senior party leaders, including Shahbaz Sharif, and their lawyers.
Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir had earlier summoned Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, sons Hussain and Hassan Nawaz and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar on Sept 19 in connection with three corruption references filed by NAB under Supreme Court orders.
Though Mr Sharif and his children have publicly expressed concerns over the SC judgement and had filed review petitions before the same bench, the petitions were all dismissed on Sept 15.
NAB had filed three references against the Sharif family in connection with the London properties, the establishment of 16 companies, including Flagship Investment Ltd in the UK and Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment in Jeddah.
The former premier and his sons have been named in all three references, while Maryam and Capt Safdar have only been named in the Avenfield reference.
Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2017