ISLAMABAD: The lead defence counsel for ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday claimed that the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) prosecution had failed to shift the burden of proof on Mr Sharif or his family in the Avenfield properties reference.
Presenting the final arguments in the case, Advocate Khawaja Haris Ahmed said there were scores of judgements of the Supreme Court that set certain preconditions to shift the onus of proof on the accused person.
Mr Haris presented the accountability court judge with copies of verdicts of Pakistani and Indian courts to establish that NAB had not followed the set criteria.
Referring to Section 14(C) of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), Mr Haris said that the law mentioned that an accused person had to prove their innocence; however, prior to that, the prosecution is supposed to have established its case beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Citing apex court verdicts in the cases Khalid Aziz versus NAB and Hakim Ali Zardari versus NAB, the defence counsel argued that the superior court had laid down four prerequisites of shifting the burden of proof on the accused person.
Defence counsel for Sharifs presents final arguments in Avenfield properties case
In its verdict, the apex court had made it mandatory for the prosecution to prove that the accused was holding public office when the alleged property was purchased; and that his pecuniary resources did not commensurate with the assets in his possession.
The court added that the prosecution would have to demonstrate the known sources of the accused person used to purchase the assets acquired and, finally, the prosecution must prove objectively that the assets were not proportionate to the financial means.
Contrary to these directions by the superior courts in which the prosecution had to fulfil all of the conditions, Mr Haris argued that the NAB prosecutor had failed to meet a single condition.
“They did not even probe the financial resources of the accused persons or check what their means of finances were,” argued the counsel.
The prosecution failed to establish whether the property in question had ever been in the possession of Mr Sharif, he said, adding that for the sake of argument, if one presumed that the ex-PM was the owner of the Avenfield Apartments, it was not an offence unless the prosecution established its case as per the prerequisite set by the superior courts.
Mr Haris maintained that not a single prosecution witness, not even star witness Wajid Zia, had admitted to having evidence of Mr Sharif’s ownership of the London properties. He termed Mr Zia’s testimony a “pack of lies”, adding, “I wonder how a man could tell lies to such an extent.”
He said the prosecution was supposed to link Mr Sharif with the London flats, but they had tried to establish a connection to the properties through the settlement of Al-Tawfeek Investment.
Mr Haris pointed out that neither Mr Sharif and his sons nor any other witness had ever stated that the ex-premier was the owner of the Avenfield Apartments.
The Joint Investigation Team constituted to probe the allegations under the Panama Papers and NAB had failed to obtain direct evidence against Mr Sharif related to the ownership of the said properties, he added.
The defence counsel will continue his arguments on Thursday.
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday directed NAB to present arguments on a petition filed by Mr Sharif seeking simultaneous proceedings of three references against him.
Counsel Azam Nazir Tarrar and Amjad Pervez represented Mr Sharif’s family before the IHC bench, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani.
Advocate Tarrar argued that being a citizen of Pakistan, Mr Sharif deserved the right to a fair trial, adding that obtaining separate testimonies of witnesses common in all cases deprived him of his fundamental right.
The accountability court had set a procedure according to which it had decided to record statements of common witnesses simultaneously, the counsel said, adding that Wajid Zia was a star witness in all three references and his testimony should have been recorded one after another but the accountability judge had deviated from his own order.
According to Mr Tarrar, it would be a miscarriage of justice if the conditions for a fair trial were not met.
Kulsoom’s condition critical In London, Nawaz Sharif rued that he was not allowed more time to look after his ailing wife.
“I feel sorry that I could not give much time to Kulsoom [because of the cases in Pakistan],” said Mr Sharif while talking to the media outside the Harley Street Clinic.
According to Mr Sharif, doctors termed Begum Kulsoom’s condition critical.
“Since my arrival in London last Thursday, I have not seen her awake,” he said and thanked the people of Pakistan for praying for her health.
Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2018