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ISLAMABAD: The counsel for the family of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif submitted an application to the accountability court on Thursday, seeking a seven-day postponement in announcement of the verdict in the Avenfield corruption reference, scheduled to be pronounced on Friday (today).

The application said a postponement in the announcement of the judgement had been sought in view of the fast deteriorating health of Mr Sharif’s wife, Kulsoom Nawaz.

While speaking to journalists in London on Wednesday, Mr Sharif had already said he wanted to return home as early as possible but had to stay on in the British capital because of the poor health of his ailing wife.

Chiefs of PPP, PTI say judgement should not be put off

A report about the condition of Mrs Nawaz was attached to the application submitted on behalf of both the former premier and his daughter Maryam Nawaz.

The report signed by David Lawrence, a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon, says: “Her [Kulsoom’s] current issue is that she remains ventilator-dependent. Whilst last week it did look as if she might be able to [be] weaned, her respiratory indices deteriorated and she has required pressure control ventilation.”

It goes on to say: “Her CT scan performed on Wednesday, 20th of June 2018, confirmed the diagnosis of small pulmonary emoli and remains anticoagulated with Clexane now. She is single organ failure only. She requires no cardiac support. Having optimised her lung function, I have performed a tracheostomy on her today the July 3, 2018.”

The report adds: “We plan to reduce her sedation tomorrow and wake her over 48 hours. The continued presence and support of her family are imperative.”

The judge of the accountability court, Mohammad Bashir, was on leave on Thursday in order to pen the court’s judgement in the Avenfield reference. In his absence, duty judge Mohammad Arshad expressed his inability to entertain the application.

Initially the judge referred the matter to the registrar of the court but later on received the application and issued notices to the prosecution wing of the National Accountability Bureau.

A decision on whether the verdict should be postponed will be taken by Mr Bashir after hearing the defence counsel’s arguments on Friday morning.

The application submitted to the court by the Sharifs stated: “When the applicant received the information that titled reference was fixed for announcement of order/judgement on July 6, 2018, his/her immediate concern was to return to Pakistan to be present before this learned court at the time of pronouncement of judgement. However, considering all contingencies associated with the pronouncement of judgement in the case they approached the team of doctors and sought advice on her mother’s condition and especially the likelihood of her gaining consciousness and coming off ventilator’s support....”

It said the country had a history of verdicts being “unnecessarily” reserved for months, hence delaying the judgement for a few days “considering an extremely sensitive matter” would not violate any requisite of justice or law.

“I want to hear this judgement while standing in the courtroom, amidst my people [and] holding them as witnesses,” Mr Sharif said in the application.

“Not only is it [delay] in the interest of justice, but in consonance with the spirit and requirement of Section 366 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 that the announcement of order in the titled reference may be postponed for a minimum of seven days period,” the application added.

The chiefs of two major political parties, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), were of the opinion that announcement of the verdict should not be put off.

PTI chairman Imran Khan said he too was concerned over the health of Mrs Nawaz. However, her poor health should not be turned into a pretext to postpone the judgement.

PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said an accused person should not dictate his terms to a court of law. “However, for the sake of democracy there should not be an impression that transparency of the general elections” was being compromised, he said.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2018