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ISLAMABAD: The accountability court on Friday gave a last chance to former premier Nawaz Sharif and his relatives to record their statement on Monday after their lead counsel requested the court to defer the matter regarding the Avenfield properties reference.

The ousted prime minister, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar had been asked to record the final statement in their defence under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code and produce anything on record to contradict the statements of 19 prosecution witnesses.

Take a look: Avenfield House or ‘tax haven’ house?

Judge Mohammad Bashir of the accountability court had also handed over a questionnaire comprising 128 questions to the counsel for the Sharif family on May 16.

When the matter came up for hearing on Friday, Advocate Khawaja Mohammad Haris requested the court to conclude cross-examination of prosecution witness Wajid Zia in the Al-Azizia reference first. He argued that some questions were related to the crucial facts which were similar in all the three references.

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While deciding the petition of Imran Khan and others on July 28, 2017 the Supreme Court had ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to prepare three references — Avenfield properties, Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment Co — for trial of Mr Sharif and his relatives in an accountability court.

The defence counsel argued that some of the facts related to Dubai and London properties and Qatari investment were overlapping and it would be prejudice to the defence case if their statement was recorded under Section 342 of the CrPC before the testimony of all prosecution witnesses in all the NAB references.

Advocate Haris said the Supreme Court’s registrar office had been requested for the provision of some documents which he said were required to be attached with the reply. For this reason, he said the matter be adjourned till Monday.

Judge Bashir adjourned the proceedings till May 21 with the observation that it was the last chance for the accused persons to record their statement and to present their version before the court in the Avenfield properties reference.

The lead counsel for Mr Sharif also claimed that they had not prepared answers to the questions so far. He alleged that there were mistakes in some questions while a few other questions could not be comprehended.

However, special prosecutor Afazl Qureshi reminded the accountability court that it was working under the deadline set by the apex court and any change in the scheduled proceedings would cause delay.

He suggested to the court that Mr Sharif and his relatives be asked to submit their statement as per the court directive while only those questions which they considered identical or overlapping in the three references could be answered at a later stage.

Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, head of NAB’s prosecution, said the defence counsel had enough time to prepare the answers and termed the request of Advocate Haris delaying tactics. He requested the court to record the statement of Mr Sharif and others under Section 342 of the CrPC without any further delay.

According to the questionnaire, Mr Sharif has been asked to come up with any defence regarding the documents produced against him by 19 prosecution witnesses and any response to the allegations levelled in JIT report. It also asked the former premier to respond to the allegation that his assets were disproportionate to his known sources of income.

It also sought the ousted prime minister’s response to the charge that he accumulated these assets while holding public offices of the chief minister and prime minister. The accountability court asked Maryam Nawaz about the ‘fake documents’ that she had allegedly produced before the JIT and the Supreme Court. All the three accused were also asked about their point of view regarding Robert Radley’s statement.

About Gulf Steel Mills, the accountability court asked the accused to respond to the statement of JIT head Wajid Zia’s statement that the Qatari letter was a myth. The court also inquired the three accused about their exact dates of birth.

About Avenfield apartments, the court inquired Mr Sharif if he was the Benami owner of Nescoll and Neilsen, the two offshore companies which own the flats.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2018