The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday extended by two months the deadline given to an accountability court hearing corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family.

In its July 28, 2017 ruling in the Panama Papers case, the apex court had given the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) six months to complete its proceedings on the corruption references against members of the Sharif family.

Acting on the apex court's order, NAB had initially filed four references against the Sharifs and former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

Three of the references were against the Sharif family — which includes Nawaz Sharif, his children Hassan, Hussain and Maryam, and his son-in-law Capt Safdar — in connection with 16 offshore companies, Azizia Steel Mills, Hill Metal Establishment, and the Avenfield flats in London.

A fourth reference pertaining to the possession of assets beyond sources of income was filed against Dar, who has established himself in London since Oct 2017.

Multiple supplementary references have been filed in subsequent proceedings.

In today's hearing, the apex court also extended by three months the deadline given to NAB to wrap up the references against Dar, who was declared an absconder by the court in Dec 2017.

NAB's counsel pleaded that the bureau be given more time to complete the trial against Dar as he was not in the country.

The court then asked how Dar, a proclaimed absconder, had been elected to the Senate.

It was informed that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had rejected Dar's nomination papers but a Lahore High Court (LHC) appellate tribunal had allowed the absconder to contest the elections.

"Did the judge not know that Ishaq Dar is absconding from the court?" Justice Ejaz Afzal asked.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan, on the other hand, inquired whether the Sharif family was using delaying tactics in the case, to which NAB's counsel responded in the negative, saying that no one had used delaying tactics in the case.

The period of six months given by the apex court for the completion of trial will end on March 13 — the same date when the extended term of Judge Mohammad Bashir of the accountability court in Islamabad is set to expire.

As the three-year term of Judge Bashir, who has been conducting the trial in the corruption references against Mr Sharif, his family and defunct finance minister Ishaq Dar, will end next Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court administration asked the law ministry to extend his term of service. The reason for the extension was stated to be the paucity of judicial officers, particularly in the cadre of BPS-21.

Currently, the law ministry is seized with a summary for the judge’s reappointment and extension in his term.

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