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ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The accountability court on Thursday gave the counsel for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s family a last chance to start their final arguments in the Avenfield properties reference after Eid holidays.

Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir said that he had till July 10 to conclude the trial in three references. This was why the defence counsel would get one last chance to begin their arguments, he said, adding that he would deduct the time already wasted from the time available to the defence counsel for their arguments.

Barrister Jahangir Jadoon submitted the papers of attorney (vakalatnama) on behalf of Nawaz Sharif and also filed an exemption application explaining that Mr Sharif and Maryam Nawaz were departing for London on Thursday and could therefore not appear in the court.

Kulsoom has a heart attack as Nawaz, Maryam arrive in London

The judge asked Mr Jadoon to forward final arguments in the Avenfield reference. However, the lawyer said that his client had not instructed him to argue the case as yet since he needed time to appoint another counsel.

The court then asked the counsel for Maryam Nawaz and her spouse retired Captain Mohammad Safdar to start his arguments since they were scheduled for the same date. Advocate Mohammad Aurangzeb informed the court that senior counsel Amjad Pervez was suffering from dehydration and was unwell.

The additional deputy prosecutor general (ADPG) of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, claimed that the defence counsel were attempting to drag the trial proceedings using delaying tactics.

Khawaja Haris had withdrawn his vakalatnama a day before the final arguments after twice committing that he would present the final arguments in this matter, he said, adding that the defence counsel were misleading the court. About Amjad Pervez, the NAB’s lawyer said he had sought exemption on the pretext of being sick without presenting a medical certificate.

A miffed Advocate Aurangzeb objected to the word “drama” the counsel for NAB had used for Advocate Pervez’s reason for absence. He added that Mr Abbasi was trying to blackmail this court.

Advocate Aurangzeb said that Khawaja Haris made calculated moves. He had requested the Supreme Court for six weeks time which the SC had not allowed, and had granted four weeks’ time instead.

He had also objected to working on Saturdays and Sundays. At this, the accountability judge said that four weeks and work on Saturdays was a direction for the court, not for the prosecution or defence.

The judge said that Barrister Jadoon had been in the court from the start of the proceeding in references and he could argue the case.

However, Advocate Jadoon said as per the instructions of his client, he could not do that since he was only instructed to file exemption applications. The judge then put off the proceedings till June 19, and directed the defence counsel to present their arguments then, as it would be their last chance.

The judge also fixed June 19 for the cross-examination of Wajid Zia in the Al-Azizia/Hill Metal Establishment reference.

Family reunion

Mr Sharif and Maryam arrived in London on Thursday to see Kulsoom Nawaz, who is currently undergoing cancer treatment.

Mr Sharif and Maryam boarded a foreign airline flight at the Allama Iqbal International Airport and arrived in London via Doha.

After boarding the plane Maryam tweeted: “Leaving for London. (We) will be back next week. I can’t wait to meet and hug Ami. I request you all for special dua for her health.”

There are reports that the condition of Kulsoom — who is in the advanced stages of lymphoma (throat) cancer — has deteriorated and she has been shifted to hospital.

Upon reaching London, Maryam tweeted that her mother had a heart attack earlier in the day. “Ami had a sudden cardiac arrest this morning when we were on the flight & is in ICU & on the ventilator since. Earnest request for duas.”

The Sharif family members’ departure could only be possible after the caretaker government neither rejected nor accepted the National Accountability Bureau’s plea to place their names on the ECL. NAB in its request to the interior ministry had expressed the fear that they (Nawaz and Maryam) might not return to the country to face corruption references against them.

In a recent letter to the interior ministry, NAB said: “This matter is agitated again in view of the fact that references against the accused persons — Mr Sharif, his children and son-in-law — are in the final stages of trial. There is apprehension that they may leave the country to avoid legal outcome of the judgement which is expected to be announced shortly.”

It also asked the ministry to put the name of former finance minister Ishaq Dar on the ECL and initiate the process to bring him back to the country as well as the two sons of Mr Sharif — Hassan and Hussain — through Interpol.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2018