ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said on Friday that the Supreme Court verdicts that had removed him from the prime minister office and also barred him from heading his own political party were tantamount to “pre-poll rigging”.

Talking to the media after attending the proceedings of the accountability court in three references the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed on the directive of the Supreme Court, Mr Sharif said that the decision to remove him from the position of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president had deprived the PML-N of an opportunity to contest the coming Senate elections despite being the largest political party in the country. Questioning the logic of the court decisions, he said that such decisions could only be handed down under a martial law regime.

“It’s a matter of concern for the nation that the apex court that has removed a prime minister over Iqama and on the same ground debarred the president of a political party from running the party, is planning to disqualify him from contesting elections for lifetime. This is tantamount to pre-poll rigging,” said Mr Sharif.

Prosecution witness admits before accountability court that he is first cousin of JIT chief

“I am very much clear... that the coming decision would disqualify me for lifetime and debar me from contesting general elections,” Mr Sharif said.

He said that they (SC judges) had used words like godfather, Sicilian mafia, thieves and dacoits for elected leaders and were now giving clarifications that they respected public representatives.

Mr Sharif said that Pakistan’s judicial history was stained with such decisions and since the era of Justice Munir — a former chief justice who introduced the infamous doctrine of necessity to legitimise dictatorial regime of Gen Ayub Khan — there was not a single verdict which could be written in golden words. However, there were several examples in which the court judgements could be written in black words.

“It is up to the people of Pakistan to decide whether the recent judgements should be written in golden words or otherwise,” he said.

Regarding the accountability court’s proceedings where forensic expert Robert M. Radley concluded his testimony on Friday, Mr Sharif said that the expert had admitted to using Calibri font in 2005.

Mr Radley was not an information technology expert but had used the font (before it was commercially available), said the former prime minister.

During Thursday’s proceedings, Mr Radley had said the trust deed of Avenfield Apartments signed by Mr Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz was a forged document since it was prepared in Calibri font in February 2006 while the font was not commercially available till January 2007.

Mr Radley, the prosecution witness, said in his testimony that before January 2007 the use of the font was limited to the professionals and IT experts.

During the cross examination on Friday, he admitted that he was not an IT expert but, responding to another question, he conceded that he had downloaded Calibri font in 2005 and was also using it before its formal launch. Also in the day, Akhtar Riaz Raja, another prosecution witness and the owner of UK-based firm Quist Solicitor, testified against the Sharif family in Avenfield Apartment case from Pakistan High Commission in London via video link.

He admitted before the accountability court that he was first cousin of Wajid Zia, the head of the six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the Supreme Court to investigate Panama Papers leaks, and had recommended filing of references against Mr Sharif, his children and defunct finance minister Ishaq Dar.

Mr Raja rejected the impression that his law firm was selected because of his relation with Mr Zia and said that the JIT had hired his services.

He did not disclose his fee saying that the JIT had shared this detail with the Supreme Court.

He also denied his association with any political party of Pakistan and said that his Facebook account was sufficient to seek information about his political or social associations.

Mr Raja said that after the JIT engaged him and gave him some documents, he observed some anomalies in the papers and decided to hire a forensic expert to verify genuineness of some papers.

After Mr Raja concluded his testimony, the court summoned Wajid Zia on March 2.

Meanwhile, the head of prosecution Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi misbehaved with senior defence counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed and also ignored repeated instructions of the accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir to stop interfering in the court proceedings.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2018

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