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FORMER prime minister Nawaz Sharif talking to reporters outside the NAB court on Wednesday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
FORMER prime minister Nawaz Sharif talking to reporters outside the NAB court on Wednesday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supreme leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed apprehension that preparations are under way to send him to the Adiala jail.

Mr Sharif stated this before attending court proceedings in the Avenfield Apartments reference on Wednesday when a journalist invited his attention to the Adiala jail renovation reportedly to house a special guest.

The former premier, who has been facing references related to accumulation of assets beyond his known sources of income, said that perhaps the arrangements were being made to send him to prison. “How could they renovate the jail for us when a verdict of the accountability court has yet to come?” asked PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz, sitting next to her father.

JIT members’ competence questioned during cross-examination of prosecution witness in Avenfield Apartments reference

Mr Sharif added: “It means that they have already started the preparation to convict us.

“It means that the accountability court was asked for our conviction and not for passing a just decision.”

He then criticised the composition of the six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted on a direction of the Supreme Court.

Mr Sharif said half of the JIT members belonged to the political rivals of the PML-N leadership. He also questioned why officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) were included in the JIT. He said the charges against the then prime minister were not related to terrorism or national security.

He also criticised the JIT head and FIA additional director general Wajid Zia for hiring the law firm of his cousin in the UK and said he paid a heavy amount to the Quist Solicitor from taxpayers’ money in violation of procurement rules.

Later, Advocate Khawaja Haris, who is leading the team of defence counsel for Mr Sharif, concluded the 10-day-long cross-examination of Wajid Zia.

While Advocate Haris concluded the cross-examination of Mr Zia, another defence counsel began cross-examining him by seeking his qualification and service details.

The JIT’s composition and competence also came under discussion during the cross-examination.

The Supreme Court had constituted the six-member JIT on April 20, 2017 and appointed Wajid Zia as its head. Other JIT members were Brig Kamran Khurshid of the MI, retired brigadier Noman Saeed of the ISI, Irfan Naeem Mangi of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Bilal Rasool of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and Amir Aziz of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

In reply to a question, Mr Zia said that Mr Aziz, who had been serving in the SBP as a director during the regime of retired General Pervez Musharraf, was posted in NAB on deputation and was assigned investigation into the charges against the Sharif family in the Hudaibya Paper Mills case.

The defence counsel said Mr Aziz had also been involved in the investigations related to the Hudaibya Mills case. “The Lahore High Court (LHC) quashed the reference based on the investigation by Mr Aziz and the Supreme Court later dismissed an appeal filed by NAB in the same reference,” he added.

“It is in my knowledge” was the answer of Mr Zia. He, however, expressed ignorance when Advocate Haris asked, “did it come into your notice that Bilal Rasool of the SECP was a nephew of former Punjab governor Mian Azhar, his spouse contested elections for a seat reserved for women on a PML-Q ticket and she is presently a diehard supporter of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf?”

Upon a court query, the defence counsel, however, admitted that the Supreme Court in its order had observed that in case the respondents (Sharif family) had any issue with the investigations they could raise it at an appropriate forum.

Advocate Haris then asked the star witness “whether it is in your knowledge after the Supreme Court issued the direction for the JIT constitution that the cousin of Bilal Rasool, Hamad Azhar, son of Mian Azhar, met Imran Khan in Banigala on April 29, 2017”.

The defence counsel faced stiff resistance from prosecutors when he asked a question about NAB director general of Rawalpindi region Irfan Naeem Mangi who supervised the investigation and prosecution of the references. The defence counsel claimed that such behaviour of the NAB prosecutors resulted in dragging the cross-examination.

Judge Mohammad Bashir of the accountability court intervened and permitted the defence counsel to ask the witness about Mr Mangi’s service details. Advocate Haris questioned Mr Zia if he knew the apex court had ordered an inquiry into the induction of Mr Mangi in NAB as additional director and the matter had been referred to a committee constituted by the Supreme Court. Mr Zia said: “I recollect that there were some disciplinary proceedings regarding appointment of Mangi but whether it was in pursuant to the Supreme Court order, I don’t remember.”

Asked if he knew that retired brigadier Noman Saeed was not a regular staffer of the ISI but was a source employee, the prosecution witness could not recollect. Advocate Haris then informed the court that Brig Kamran Khurshid was serving in the MI.

After Advocate Haris, another defence counsel Amjad Pervez began cross-examining the JIT head by asking about his qualification. Mr Zia said he was a graduate. “I did graduation as a private candidate in 1984 and then joined government service as assistant superintendent of police in 1988.”

Mr Zia testified that ISI representatives were dealing with the summoning of witnesses. According to him, there were 40 staffers from different organizations working in the JIT secretariat but he said with the consent of the Supreme Court their identity was kept secret for security reasons. He however could not produce any written order in this regard. He said that 30 of the 40 persons were experts in different fields while 10 were the supporting staff.

Regarding JIT’s working, Mr Zia said that contrary to police rules, the JIT constituted on the Supreme Court order did not prepare a daily diary of cases.

The cross-examination continued till 3pm as usual when the court adjourned the proceedings till Thursday (today). The defence counsel, Amjad Pervez, will continue to cross-examine the JIT head.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2018