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ISLAMABAD: The Accountability Court on Thursday rejected the plea of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz for week-long exemption from personal appearance in the court to visit Mr Sharif’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz who, according to her medical report, may undergo a critical surgery in a London hospital in the next few days.

Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir dismissed the applications filed by Mr Sharif and Ms Nawaz on the ground that the trial (in the Avenfield Properties reference) was in its final stages.

Mr Sharif and his daughter had sought the week-long exemption from appearance in court from March 26 and given an undertaking about their return.

In the past, the same court had granted permanent exemption from appearing in the court to former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, former finance minister Shaukat Tareen and several former federal secretaries in the rental power projects case. The same judge had exempted former president Asif Ali Zardari from attending hearings of five corruption references.

Defence lawyer informs judge Kulsoom may undergo critical surgery in a London hospital in a few days; ex-PM calls for national consensus on key issues

Likewise, the Accountability Court-II had also exempted former prime ministers Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani and Pervez Ashraf from attending hearings of the reference related to illegal appointment of Tauqir Sadiq as the chairman of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra). Sadiq is still facing a reference for causing a loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequer while he was Ogra chairman.

Maryam Nawaz, in response to rejection of her exemption application, tweeted, “she’d been waiting. Haven’t seen her for over 4 months. Our last exemption request was also rejected.”

She also tweeted, “my mother was waiting for me and father, she asked on telephone whether permission was granted. I replied no. She went to say, it doesn’t matter, Allah is with us.”

Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb also criticised the dismissal of the exemption applications of Mr Sharif and his daughter. She alleged that the Sharif family had been subjected to victimisation in the name of accountability. “They had sought a seven-day exemption only but the court did not let them go to (London to) visit the ailing Kulsoom Nawaz”, she said, adding that the courts had allowed former military dictator retired Gen Pervez Musharraf to go abroad for backache treatment.

“Such decisions strengthen our resolve to fight for the sanctity of the vote,” Ms Aurangzeb added.

On the other hand, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan said that the Sharifs had failed to establish such a hospital where they could go for medical treatment.

Addressing a press conference, Mr Khan said that in addition to Kulsoom Nawaz and former finance minister Ishaq Dar, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif also went abroad for medical treatment.

During the hearing on the exemption applications, Khawaja Haris Ahmed, lead defence counsel for the Sharifs, produced a letter of Dr Daniel Krell on medical condition of Kulsoom Nawaz in court.

He told the court that the medical report said that “despite having completed six cycles of chemotherapy following her surgery, new FDG [radiopharmaceutical] avid left neck nodes” had surfaced, necessitating consideration of opting for surgery or radiotherapy.

Mr Haris said that the doctor had recommended “surgical resection followed by radiotherapy” but there were some other options which the doctor needed to discuss with Kulsoom Nawaz’s husband and daughter.

The National Accountability Bureau’s prosecutors Afzal Qureshi and Wasiq Malik opposed the exemption plea, saying that the court should not let Mr Sharif and Ms Nawaz go [to London] at a time when the trial was near completion and the bureau had recommended placing their names on the Exit Control List.

Nawaz criticises judiciary

Talking to journalists before the hearing, Mr Sharif called for broader national consensus on key issues and said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was ready to sit with all stakeholders, including the military establishment, to ensure the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution in the country.

However, he did not respond to a reporter when told that the security establishment had conveyed to him that it was not behind his ouster from PM House and subsequent developments.

He said it was an irony that a prime minister who had made the country a nuclear power, ended electricity outages, laid a motorways network and launched the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, was facing baseless cases.

On the other hand, he said, a military dictator manhandled the chief justice, sacked the judges and kept them under house arrest but the judiciary never dared to issue him a contempt notice.

However, Mr Sharif said, the PML-N had staged a long march for restoration of the judiciary and also instituted a high treason case against Gen Musharraf. “We had set an example and things will never be reversed,” he added.

He said, “I appeared before Wajid Zia-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) but the same Wajid Zia was kept waiting for hours outside Gen Musharraf’s farmhouse to record his testimony.

“We were committed to the charter of democracy signed with Pakistan the Peoples Party in 2006 but the PPP opted for the National Reconciliation Ordinance which was against the spirit of the charter”, he said and asked PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to correct the record.

Wajid Zia’s testimony

Meanwhile, the Accountability Court continued recording the statement of JIT head Wajid Zia in the Avenfield Properties reference.

He produced JIT’s analysis report and letters from the United Arab Emirates authorities that contradicted the money trail submitted by the Sharif family to the Supreme Court during the hearing of Panamagate case.

Mr Zia told the court that the JIT had assessed responses of the UAE government and attorney general office of British Virgin Island as well as reports of forensic expert Robert William Radley.

The JIT observed that there was sufficient material on record to prove the case against the Sharif family and therefore it preferred not to record testimony of Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2018