ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Thursday indicted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law in the London properties reference.
The same court will indict Mr Sharif in another reference, related to Flagship Investments and other offshore companies, on Friday (today).
Accountability Court Judge Mohammad Bashir indicted Mr Sharif in the Avenfield Properties and Al-Azizia Company references through his pleader, while charges against Maryam Nawaz Sharif and retired Captain Mohammad Safdar were framed in their presence.
The Sharif family, meanwhile, pleaded not guilty, claiming that they were denied the fundamental right to a fair trial.
As per Mr Sharif’s pleader, the Supreme Court’s judgement of July 28 in the Panama Papers case was “unprecedented” and denied him his “fundamental rights which the Constitution guaranteed for every citizen for being treated in accordance with law”.
Maryam, Capt Safdar plead not guilty; Sharif expected to return by next week
According to the former three-time prime minister, the apex court’s directions to conclude the trial within six months and the appointment of a monitoring judge to supervise the trial was against constitutional provisions that ensured the dignity of citizens and the right to fair and transparent proceedings.
The pleader read out Mr Sharif’s statement after the accountability judge read out charges against him in the Avenfield Properties reference.
Likewise, Maryam also came to the rostrum when the judge started reading charges against her. She pleaded not guilty and said: “I wish to declare that I refuse to accept the charge sheet.”
She said that the allegations against her were based on a frivolous report, prepared by a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) with mala fide intentions, adding that the report itself was a mockery of justice.
“We have been denied the right to a fair trial, which is a fundamental right for every citizen and the former prime minister and his family are not exceptions.”
Capt Safdar also pleaded not guilty.
The proceedings on Thursday were much calmer than previous occasions, and when Ms Sharif walked into the courtroom, she observed how orderly everything was. This was probably because members of the PML-N Lawyers’ Forum, a number of whom have been allowed to witness proceedings, did not show up.
Ms Sharif was also seen clutching prayer beads and seemed far more relaxed than at previous hearings.
The accountability court indicted Sharif family under Section 9(a) of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) for owing assets beyond their known sources of income.
As per the charge sheet, the Sharif family failed to substantiate the purchase of the Avenfield Properties, which include flats 16, 16-A, 17 and 17-A situated at Avenfield House, Park Lane, London.
The court also charged them with failing to account for the acquisition of these properties through lawful means.
The charge sheet alleged that the accused had produced documents that were subsequently found to be fake and fabricated.
Earlier, the same court dismissed four applications filed by the Sharif family, one after another.
One application sought the provision of Volume 10 of the JIT report, while another asked for the statement of three witnesses: National Bank of Pakistan CEO Saeed Ahmed, Javed Kayani and Basharat Ahmed Shahzad.
A third application was filed to stay trial proceedings since the ex-PM had filed a petition before the Supreme Court to convert the three references into one. A fourth application, meanwhile, asked the accountability court to consolidate all prosecution evidence for the expeditious disposal of the case.
The Accountability Court judge heard these applications at successive intervals and dismissed them all one after the other.
The main reason for the dismissal was the apex court’s judgement of July 28, which directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file separate references against Mr Sharif.
NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi opposing the handing over of Volume 10 of the JIT report to the accused, saying that the apex court deliberately did not provide it to them.
Talking to the reporters inside the courtroom, Ms Sharif said her father was likely to return to the country in a few days.
Referring to the remarks of an apex court judge, who had termed the PML-N government a “Sicilian mafia” during the hearing of the Panama Papers case, Ms Sharif asked reporters if they had ever heard the Sicilian Mafia honouring the courts in such a manner.
She said that if PML-N fielded her as a candidate in the 2018 general elections, she would do her utmost to fulfil the responsibility.
During the press talk, Daniyal Aziz — imitating an intelligence agency official who was filmed leaving the court a couple of weeks ago — hid his face with a notebook, saying: “From now on, we will also come to court in this style”.
At this, Ms Sharif promptly observed that a person should not commit acts that required them to cover his face.
Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2017