ISLAMABAD: An accountability court of Islamabad on Thursday issued arrest warrants for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in two references related to the companies owned by his sons in the UK and Saudi Arabia.
Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir dismissed the application filed by Mr Sharif, through his pleader Zaafir Khan, seeking exemption from personal attendance and a one-week adjournment.
The judge issued bailable warrants, remarking that “it would be the last chance” for the accused. In case Mr Sharif continues to remain absent from proceedings, the court would issue non-bailable arrest warrants in his name.
Accountability judge chides NAB prosecutor for commenting on court proceedings; Maryam denies running media cell
In the third reference, related to the four flats owned by the Sharif family in Avenfield House, Park Lane, UK, the court issued notices to Mr Sharif’s guarantors for Nov 3.
On that day, the accountability court will resume proceedings in three references dealing with Flagship Investments and other companies in the UK, Al-Azizia and Hill Metal Establishment in Saudi Arabia and the Avenfield properties.
This is the third time the court has heard Mr Sharif’s application seeking exemption. However, his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar have not sought exemption from personal attendance and have appeared before the trial court in person at regular intervals.
On Oct 9, the court exempted Mr Sharif from personal attendance for 15 days, since the former PM wanted to visit his ailing wife Kulsoom Nawaz in the UK.
The court has already indicted Mr Sharif, Maryam and Capt Safdar in the Avenfield reference on Oct 19 and on Thursday, the first witness was scheduled to testify before the court.
However, when the accountability judge resumed hearing on Thursday, Mr Sharif’s counsel Khawaja Haris filed an application seeking further exemption for his client.
He informed the court that Mr Sharif was ready to appear before it, and had left the UK for this purpose, stopping over in Saudi Arabia to perform Umra.
Advocate Haris told the court Kulsoom Nawaz’s medical consultant informed Mr Sharif via email on Oct 25 that though his spouse’s health was improving, she needed to undergo further treatment.
He also shared a printed copy of the email in question, saying that this forced Mr Sharif to return to the UK, since it was not possible for him to leave his spouse at such a critical time.
But NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi opposed the exemption plea, terming the former premier’s absence “deliberate”.
He pointed out that the court had accepted an earlier application seeking exemption for the accused and appointed a pleader for a fortnight on Oct 9.
He said following the expiry of that period, the pleader ceased to exist, therefore he could not file an application on Mr Sharif’s behalf, adding that the court should issue arrest warrants for the accused due to his deliberate absence.
But even as the judge was considering this matter, a NAB special prosecutor invited his ire when he passed irresponsible remarks against the court.
Contrary to court practice, Afzal Qureshi addressed the judge in comparatively loud voice, saying that “the accused are taking the court very easy” due to the leniency of the judge.
This incensed the judge, who warned the prosecutor to “not pass such comments on the court”, adding: “This is a court, not a public gathering where you are free to make such [comments]”.
“Tell me even a single instance where I have shown leniency for the accused persons,” the judge continued, remarking that the court had issued warrants for the accused in the past as per the law and had also directed them to submit sureties.
“The way you are arguing is not acceptable in anyway,” the accountability court judge warned the special prosecutor.
Since proceedings began against Mr Sharif, his children and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, the prosecution has been seen by many as being offensive and aggressive, but this was the first time the accountability judge has censured a member of the prosecution team.
Maryam’s press talk
Speaking to mediapersons after appearing before the court, Maryam Nawaz Sharif said that the prosecution seemed to be “extra vigilant” in cases related to the family of the former prime minister.
“There seems to be different law for a military dictator and a [different one] for an elected leader who was disqualified for holding an Iqama,” she observed.
“If this watchfulness is for a single family, then it puts a question mark over the process of the dispensation of justice” she said.
“When we talk about democracy, they label it treason. If someone demands justice, they term it contempt of court,” Ms Sharif remarked, adding that her father would return to Pakistan to face all cases pending against him.
Responding to a question regarding the arrests of activists allegedly linked to her media cell, Ms Sharif clarified that she did not run or control any such cell.
Conceding that she was looking after media management while her father was in power, she claimed that she had stopped dealing with the media after his ouster.
“I know who is spreading such fake information against me and why they are running a campaign against me,” she said.
Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2017