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Nawaz assails judiciary as his lawyer gives up

Updated June 12, 2018

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LAHORE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif addresses a press conference on Monday.—INP
LAHORE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif addresses a press conference on Monday.—INP

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: In his latest tirade against the judiciary, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been facing the Avenfield properties case and other references before an accountability court, has claimed that no lawyer is willing to take his case after the team of his defence counsel withdrew their attorney papers on Monday.

Addressing a press conference at the party office in Model Town, Mr Sharif said if a decision in the corruption references came before the date (July 25) of general elections it would amount to desecration of the law. “My fundamental rights are being violated as I am being deprived of the services of a lawyer,” he said, adding that an environment was created in which no lawyer was willing to take up his case without being given time for preparation and being compelled to appear in court on weekends too.

Earlier when the accountability court asked the ousted premier if he wanted to engage a new lawyer or convince his team of lawyers led by Advocate Khwaja Haris to take back their decision to recuse themselves from pleading the case, Mr Sharif sought time to respond.

Mr Sharif, however, refused to take questions during the press conference which was also attended by his daughter Maryam Nawaz, former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Raja Zafarul Haq, Senator Pervaiz Rashid and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif.

Counsel for ousted PM withdraws attorney papers, citing inability to appear before accountability court on weekends

The ousted prime minister said no other lawyer could take up his case under strict conditions set by the apex court after his defence counsel withdrew their attorney papers in the case (the Avenfield Properties and other references filed by the National Accountability Bureau).

“Even if a lawyer is ready to take up my case how will he go through the huge case record in such a short period of time?” he remarked.

Calling it a travesty of justice that a lawyer was forced to appear in the case even on weekends and without preparation, he asked: “Is there any other such case in which the same practice is being observed? The case is heard by the accountability court and its proceedings are being controlled by the apex court,” he alleged.

Only a day ago, the Supreme Court had extended the June 9 deadline given to the accountability court by another month enabling it to complete the trial of Mr Sharif in the references by conducting the proceedings on a daily basis including Saturdays.

The chief justice while heading the SC bench had turned down the defence counsel’s request for six-week extension and said: “If I can work on weekends, then why can’t you? What kind of legal practice are you doing that you cannot sacrifice time even for important cases?”

Mr Sharif said: “It is being said that decision in my case is necessary before July 25. Then do it but it will amount to desecration of the law. I have appeared before the court about 100 times in this case. Monitoring of the trial proceedings and appeal against it was pending with the Supreme Court. I have faced injustice. If there is no corruption and kickback charge against me [and my family], then why the case is being prolonged.”

The former premier further claimed the accountability court had changed its decision regarding consolidated hearing of all the references against him.

Mr Sharif was also critical of former military dictator retired General Pervez Musharraf. “How a dictator who abrogated the Constitution is being pampered!” he remarked.

Earlier during the day, the lead counsel for the ousted premier, Advocate Khawaja Haris Ahmed, and his team expressing doubts over the credibility of the accountability court withdrew their attorney papers (Vakalatnama).

In his application for withdrawal of the Vakalatnama, Mr Haris claimed that the court had never adjourned the proceedings due to defence counsel’s non-cooperation during the past nine months.

About the SC proceeding on June 10, Advocate Haris in his application stated that he had submitted before the bench that it would neither be possible for him to conduct the case on behalf of the defence on Saturdays, nor beyond court hours. He added that it had also been submitted that the conclusion of the trial proceeding in all the three references would take at least six more weeks and that he was willing to give a commitment to the court to this effect, but not otherwise.

The counsel stated that if the proceedings were conducted in such a way it would compromise the fundamental right of fair trial of ex-PM and his children. He argued that vide the order dated June 10, the apex court had given the accountability court a free hand to decide any of the reference/references separately and independently from other references while the petition of Mr Sharif to this effect was pending before the IHC.

In such circumstances, it was not possible for him to continue to represent his client in the references, he said. “This learned court may very graciously allow the undersigned to withdraw his Vakalatnama in the titled case along with Vakalatnamas of his lawyers’ team namely Barrister Saad Hashmi, Ayesha Hamid, Barrister Ali Ameel Parvez Malik and Zaafir Khan Tareen,” he added.

The court later asked Mr Sharif if he would engage a new lawyer or convince Advocate Haris to take back his application. Mr Sharif sought some time from the court to respond after which the court adjourned the proceedings till Tuesday (today).

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2018