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• Court to indict ex-PM Sharif, daughter and her husband on Friday
• Hussain, Hassan declared proclaimed offenders

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Monday declared the sons of the former prime minister proclaimed offenders, and would indict Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on Oct 13 in the London apartments reference.

The court also sought details of Hussain and Hassan Nawaz’s movable and immovable properties from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) within 10 days, after the prosecution alleged that the two were deliberately avoiding court proceedings in references related to the Park Lane flats and the establishment of offshore companies.

It was a testing first day in court for Maryam Nawaz Sharif and her husband, retired Captain Mohammad Safdar, who had only returned to the country hours before they were scheduled to appear in court.

A large number of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders and lawyers had arrived in court early and managed to find seats in the otherwise small courtroom, which also had a sizeable presence of plainclothes policemen and intelligence operatives.

Before the hearing began, a senior police official came into the courtroom and asked a number of PML-N lawyers to make room for Maryam Nawaz and her entourage. But he was left speechless when a woman lawyer suggested that he remove some of the intelligence operatives from the court to make room for Ms Sharif.

Ms Sharif appeared in court at around 9am, while her husband, who was taken into custody by NAB soon after their arrival at Islamabad airport, was brought to court an hour later.

She was accompanied by her son-in-law Raheel Munir, Dr Asif Kirmani, Pervez Rashid, Daniyal Aziz, Anusha Rehman, Saira Afzal Tarar, Marvi Memon, Tahira Aurangzeb, Maiza Hameed and others. Mohammad Talal Chaudhry and Marriyum Aurangzeb, however, preferred to remain outside the courtroom.

Ms Sharif was seated in the front row, flanked by Pervez Rashid and Asif Kirmani, and was mobbed by PML-N workers and lawyers during the interval, all of whom wanted to convey their grievances to her.

When the hearing got under way, NAB’s investigation officers — Deputy Directors Mohammad Kamran and Mehboob Alam, as well as Assistant Director Mohammad Imran — told the court that summons had been delivered to Hussain and Hassan Nawaz at their residences in Pakistan and abroad.

At the outset, Khawaja Haris Ahmed, counsel for Mr Sharif and his daughter, submitted two applications — for seeking an exemption from personal attendance and another seeking a 15-day adjournment.

He told the court that the former prime minister was in London to tend to his ailing wife, Kulsoom Nawaz, who was undergoing treatment for lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes. He said that Begum Kulsoom was in a critical condition and had not recovered despite a third surgery.

The application stated that she was about to start chemotherapy from Oct 11 and that “in these circumstances, the applicant (Nawaz Sharif) was forced to rush to London”.

But the application was opposed by NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, who argued that the application could only be considered if the accused was present in court.

But the defence counsel pointed out that on Sept 26, the judge hearing arguments on a plea for permanent exemption said that a day’s exemption may be granted to Mr Sharif in case of an emergency.

Thereafter, the court exempted Mr Sharif from appearing on Monday, but fixed Oct 13 for his indictment. The judge also barred Capt Safdar from all foreign travel without the court’s approval.

When the lawmaker from Manshera entered, the judge was not present in the courtroom. Taking advantage of this, an over-enthusiastic lawyer tried to raise a slogan, but was immediately snubbed by PML-N lawyers, who advised him to observe decorum.

During the hearing, the courtroom became so overcrowded that cabinet minister Daniyal Aziz began to feel claustrophobic.

Amjad Pervez, counsel for Capt Safdar, requested the judge to release his client against surety bonds. But this was opposed by NAB prosecutor Afzal Qureshi, who argued that under Section 9-B of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), an accused arrested under the schedule of offences could only apply for bail before a two-member division bench of the high court.

But Mr Pervez contended that Capt Safdar was not arrested under the schedule of offences, rather was taken into custody on the order of the accountability judge.

The counsel maintained that NAB chairman was the only authority who could issue arrest warrants in connection with schedule offences. But when the prosecution confirmed that its chairman had not issued arrest warrants for Capt Safdar, the judge ordered the defendant to submit surety bonds worth Rs5 million.

Up to this point, Ms Sharif seemed visibly worried. When arguments concluded, a court reporter standing next to Tariq Fazal Chaudhry explained that Capt Safdar had been granted bail. The state minister then relayed the information to Ms Sharif, who became visibly relaxed upon hearing the news.

The court also directed Ms Sharif to submit surety bonds worth Rs5m.

Maryam’s press talk

Addressing the media outside the courtroom, Ms Sharif said that despite having serious reservations, her family had joined the process initiated for their accountability.

She said that in addition to politicians, those who had turned the law and Constitution into a joke are equally liable to be held accountable.

Reiterating that the cases against the Sharif family were politically motivated, she said her father had bowed before the courts, while she was put in the dock and her husband was arrested.

But those who disrespected the courts and absconded were holding political processions and appearing before other courts.

She said that when those charged with administering justice become a party in a case, what could be expected of them.

Talking about the appearance of her brothers Hussain and Hassan Nawaz, she said that they were independent in their decisions and that as non-resident Pakistanis, were not subject to local laws for the time being.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2017

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