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ISLAMABAD: The third deadline to complete trial against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law in corruption references lapsed on Saturday, while the Supreme Court is yet to take up the accountability judge’s application seeking extension in the timeframe to wrap up the proceedings.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, however, has fixed this application before his own bench for Sunday at the Lahore registry of the Supreme Court.

The accountability court is hearing final arguments in the Avenfield properties reference while the counsel of Mr Sharif has challenged accountability judge Mohammad Bashir’s order of hearing final arguments saying that it is contrary to what the judge had ruled earlier according to which the court was supposed to proceed in all references — Avenfield properties, Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment — simultaneously since the key evidence in the three references is the same.

The Islamabad High Court will resume hearing of Mr Sharif’s petition on June 12.

SC takes up accountability judge’s plea for another extension today

In March, the apex court had granted a two-month extension to the accountability court to complete the proceedings. When the trial could not be completed in the stipulated time despite day-to-day hearings, the SC had granted one more month to decide the references.

As the latest deadline has expired, the court has yet to record statements of Wajid Zia in the Flagship reference and two investigation officers in Al-Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship references, respectively.

Once the statements are recorded, defence counsel Khwaja Haris would cross-examine the witnesses.

Subsequently, the accused would record their statements and produce witnesses, if needed, and after that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and defence counsel would present arguments.

Following the arguments, both parties would give rebuttal and then the court is expected to reserve its verdict and pronounce it later.

NAB had filed the references following the July 28, 2017, judgement of the Supreme Court in the Panamagate case.

While deviating for his earlier stance that all three corruption references against the Sharif family would be decided simultaneously, the accountability judge held on June 5 that no such reason existed now.

“Accused has not produced any defence witness in this [Avenfield] reference. He has also not opted to be examined on oath under Section 340 (2) CrPC. Therefore, the reason for rendering the decision simultaneously in all the three references is not existing at present,” Judge Bashir stated in the order.

Subsequently, the accountability court had dismissed Mr Sharif’s request for postponement of final arguments till the evidence is recorded in all three references.

In the petition filed against the said order Mr Sharif’s counsel stated that if the accountability court decides one of the three references separately and independently of the other two, the judge would already have disclosed his mind with respect to not only the accused who is common in all three references but also in respect of the facts which are common to all three cases.

Hence other two references would inevitably have to be transferred to and decided by one or more judges who would be totally unfamiliar with the detailed facts and propositions of law involved in the cases.

According to the petition, the decision of the other two references will take considerably more time if all three are decided simultaneously by the court.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2018