ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif after appearing in an accountability court for the three references filed against him on a Supreme Court directive termed his party’s victory in the Lodhran by-election ‘a public reaction’ against his ‘political victimisation’ and ‘fabricated’ references.

“It is the people of Pakistan who are fighting my case,” claimed Mr Sharif while talking to the media on Tuesday after appearing in the court for the references filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau on the SC directive.

“Those who had prepared the references and handed these over to NAB desired my conviction,” he said, adding that “in case I am not convicted all their efforts would end in futility”.

“I salute the people as they are responding to the allegations levelled against me and fighting for the sanctity of their own vote irrespective of whether they are living in rural or urban areas,” said Mr Sharif.

The ex-premier said Lodhran’s by-election was the practical demonstration of public reaction. He said the references filed against him as well as against his children were fabricated and lacked evidence. “This is the reason that NAB is filing supplementary references,” he added.

He termed it “victimisation in the name of accountability”.

However, Mr Sharif skipped a question regarding Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s recent announcement that he would not continue his decades-long association with the PML-N if the party’s command was given to his daughter, Maryam Nawaz, or some junior politician.

Earlier on Tuesday, the counsel for the Sharif family moved three applications seeking exemption from personal attendance of Mr Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar till March 3.

The counsel, Amjad Pervez, argued that Kalsoom Nawaz, the ailing spouse of Mr Sharif, was in a critical condition and a final decision about her treatment would be taken within the next few days. At this critical stage, he said, the presence of Mr Sharif as well as other family members with Ms Kalsoom was necessary. He explained that Mr Sharif had earlier visited the UK to inquire after the health of his ailing spouse and returned to face the trial that never suffered any delay in his absence.

Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir asked NAB deputy prosecutor general Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi to file his response to these applications on Feb 15.

The court also fixed Feb 22 for recording the testimony of two UK-based prosecution witnesses, Akhtar Raja and Robert M. Radley, via a video link. Arrangements for the recording the testimony would be made at Pakistani High Commission in the UK.

Mr Raja is the owner of Quist Solicitor and nephew of Wajid Zia, the head of the Joint Investigation Team that probed the money-laundering allegations against the Sharif family. Mr Radley is the principal of his own forensic laboratory and he disclosed use of Calibri font in the documents signed by Maryam Nawaz and retired Capitan Safdar related to Avenfield Apartments at a time when the font was not commercially available in the market.

The defence counsel told the court that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had allowed the lawyers of Mr Sharif to be present at the High Commission during the recording of the testimony.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2018