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Avenfield reference may conclude today

Updated July 03, 2018


ISLAMABAD: The accountability court on Monday turned down an application of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam seeking another exemption for seven days from their personal appearance in the Avenfield properties reference.

The accountability judge, however, granted them exemption for a couple of days and directed both the father and daughter to appear before the court on Wednesday.

The Avenfield reference is likely to conclude on Tuesday (today). The court has already summoned star prosecution witness Wajid Zia, head of Supreme Court-formed Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in the Panama Papers case, for cross-examination in the Al-Azizia reference on Tuesday.

Mr Sharif and Maryam Nawaz sought exemption from their personal appearance in court from July 2 to 9. The exemption plea was filed by their counsel Saad Hashmi.

Arguing before the court, Advocate Hashmi and Advocate Amjad Pervez informed the court that the former PM and his daughter travelled to London on June 14 because Mr Sharif’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz, who suffered from cancer and was undergoing treatment there.

Advocate Hashmi contended that upon arrival in London, Mr Sharif was “informed that his wife had suffered a cardiac arrest; that she had been put on a life-supporting ventilator; that she had been shifted to the intensive care unit (ICU); and that she was in a very critical condition”.

Nawaz, Maryam ordered to appear in accountability court tomorrow

Subsequently, Mr Sharif moved an application seeking exemption from his appearance in the court on June 19 and the court had accepted his application and granted him exemption until June 23. Since Ms Kulsoom’s condition was still not stable, Mr Sharif filed another application on June 25 seeking exemption from his appearance and the court accepted his application.

Advocate Hashmi said that according to a medical report issued on June 22, Ms Kulsoom had been diagnosed with cardio-respiratory collapse with confirm pulmonary thromboembolic disease (bilateral, segmental, moderate sized, multiple); cardiogenic shock with multiple organ failure, including respiratory and renal failure; and malnutrition and re-feeding syndrome.

He said Mr Sharif had intended to return to Pakistan on June 27 along with his daughter as it was expected that by that time his wife would have shown some signs of recovery and would be able to communicate with her family members. But the patient’s condition did not improve, preventing Mr Sharif from returning to Pakistan, he added.

He said the medical report stated that the patient still needed life-support machines. It further confirmed that “last week it did look as if she might be able to weaned, her respiratory indices deteriorated and she has required pressure control ventilation”.

The counsel informed the court that Ms Kulsoom’s doctors were hopeful that she might show sufficient signs of recovery during the current week and that she would be able to communicate with her family members.

The prosecution on the other hand opposed the exemption plea.

Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi and Afzal Qureshi — both additional deputy prosecutors general of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) — argued that since there were signs of improvement in Ms Kulsoom’s condition and considering the fact that many other members of the Sharif family, including Mr Sharif’s sons Hussain and Hassan Nawaz, were already with the patient in London, the court should not grant further exemption to Mr Sharif and Maryam.

The accountability judge granted two-day exemption and asked Mr Sharif and Maryam to join the proceeding on Wednesday.

Final arguments

During the course of final arguments in the Avenfield reference, the counsel for Maryam and the Sharif family claimed that forensic expert Robert William Radley was not an expert of fonts.

He claimed that Mr Radley lacked expertise in fonts identification, adding that he did not have the qualification with regard to identification of fonts.

The defence counsel argued that the case of the prosecution was that Calibri font was not commercially available when it was used in a document of Ms Maryam. But, he added, the availability of the font was not disputed. He wondered why the services of a foreign expert were hired when such facilities were available in Pakistan.

He reiterated that the services of Mr Radley were hired neither directly nor through the Foreign Office.

He said two witnesses — JIT head Zia and his cousin Akhtar Riaz Raja of Quist Solicitor — had admitted before the court that Mr Radley’s services could be hired directly or through the Foreign Office.

The accountability judge asked the defence counsel to conclude the final arguments by Tuesday and adjourned the proceeding.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2018