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ISLAMABAD: A prosecution witness in the Avenfield Apartments reference admitted before the accountability court during cross-examination on Tuesday that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) collected the documentary evidence related to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s employment in the UAE without completing the legal formality of preparing recovery and possession memos.

The star witness, Wajid Zia, said JIT members Brig Kamran Khurshid of the Military Intelligence (MI) and Irfan Naeem Mangi of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) obtained the documents related to salary details, employment contract with Capital FZE, a firm owned by Mr Sharif’s son, and a certificate of the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (Jafza) official.

Mr Zia conceded that the JIT members did not prepare a recovery memo and a possession memo of the documents when they were being handed over to them by Jafza.

Heated argument between defence lawyer, NAB prosecutor over ‘protracted’ cross-examination

According to the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the recovery and possession memos preparation is a mandatory legal requirement whenever an investigation team collects evidence from a source. Usually, an official certifies in the seizure memo that he collected this material from the possession of a person in front of an eyewitness to make this court-worthy evidence.

NAB’s special prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, however, argued that Mr Sharif had already admitted before the Supreme Court his employment and his entitlement of the salaries from Capital FZE. He said that the defence counsel had been trying to unnecessarily prolong the cross-examination of the witness on the issue which had been admitted before the apex court.

Khawaja Haris, the counsel for Mr Sharif, insisted that he had every right to cross-examine the witness on each and every document submitted in the court.

Then the defence counsel asked Mr Zia about a couple of abbreviations mentioned in a document that the JIT said had the detail of the payment made to Mr Sharif till July 2013. “Do you know what WPS stands for in this payment certificate?” asked the defence counsel.

“I cannot say about this with certainty” was the response of Mr Zia who was then reminded that WPS stood for Wage Protection System. Again, the defence counsel questioned Mr Zia about another abbreviation, OTC, recalling that the modes of payment in that document were WPS and OTC. As Mr Zia did not respond, the defence counsel said OTC meant over the counter.

Asked if the JIT had ever investigated the possibility of disbursement of salaries through OTC in any WPS, which operates through bank transactions only, Mr Zia replied in the negative.

Mr Zia admitted before the court that neither Mr Sharif nor any witness informed the JIT that the former premier was beneficial or real owner of Nielson, Nescol or Gulf Steel Mills and Al-Azizia Steel Mills. He said the Sharif family members claimed before the JIT that the late Mian Sharif, the father of ex-PM Nawaz Sharif, was looking after their financial interests and that he determined the pocket money of his children and grandchildren.

Referring to the references against him in the accountability court, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader Nawaz Sharif said that he expected that the judgements should be based on justice not what Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf wanted.

He criticised NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal and said he had compromised on forced disappearances. He said Justice Iqbal was heading the commission on enforced disappearances as well but his priorities seemed to be implicating politicians in references.

He said conviction was nothing new for him as he had experienced it after the military coup in 1999.

Meanwhile, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz also continued with her campaign of calumnies. She asked why Mr Sharif had been convicted and then said: “If he [Mr Sharif] had remained engaged in wheeling-dealing and followed the umpire’s finger, there would have been no hurdle for him to complete the five-year term.”

Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2018