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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Thursday turned down a request of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor to postpone till September the hearing on petitions filed by the Sharif family seeking suspension of the verdict in the Avenfield properties case.

Lead defence counsel Khawaja Haris concluded his arguments on appeals seeking transfer of two pending references — Al-Azizia and Flagship Invest­ment — from the court of accountability judge Mohammad Bashir to another accountability court.

NAB’s additional deputy prosecutor general Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi requested the court to adjourn the hearing on the petitions seeking suspension of the accountability court’s verdict till September when the summer vacation would end in the IHC.

Defence counsel concludes arguments on transfer of Al-Azizia and Flagship references to another court

Advocate Haris opposed the request, saying it was a matter of liberty of detained citizen. He added that in case this matter was put off till September and clubbed with the regular appeals against conviction, it would be tantamount to dismissal of petitions seeking suspension of the verdict.

Subsequently, an IHC bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb adjourned the matter till Aug 6.

During the course of arguments on the appeals seeking transfer of pending references, Mr Haris said that at least 12 grounds were common in three NAB references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He said accountability judge Bashir had in his July 6 judgement in the Avenfield apartments reference discarded these facts and awarded punishment to Mr Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar.

The counsel argued that firstly the veracity of an agreement of 1980 was common in all three references, and secondly the court had rejected stance of investment of 12 million dirham in Qatar, which was common in all the three references. Thirdly, he said, the letters of Qatari Prince Hamad bin Jassim supporting the investment had been found to be hearsay, hence rejected by the court.

Fourth, the counsel continued, both the letters and a worksheet relied by Mr Sharif’s sons — Hussain and Hassan Nawaz — to show the source of investment for acquiring assets/businesses in all that three references had been found to be not good defence. Next, he said, both the letters and the worksheet prepared to fill the gaps were common in all the three references.

Fifth, Mr Haris said, Hamad bin Jassim’s conduct had been commented upon adversely by holding that he did not cooperate with the Joint Investigation Team.

Referring to another commonality, he said the court had held that Mr Sharif’s children were dependent financially, hence could not acquire assets without financial assistance of “anyone else/father”. He said the issue of dependency was common in all the three references and the children were held to be dependent on Mr Sharif on the ground that “generally children remain dependent on their parents”.

Mr Haris maintained that Mr Sharif’s speech made in the National Assembly on May 16, 2016 had been considered as an incriminating factor against him in the case, adding that the former prime minister’s speech was used against him by holding that Article 66 of the Constitution (privileges of members, etc) was not applicable to this speech. He said the speech factor was also common. Likewise, he added, TV interviews of Hussain and Hassan had been used as evidence in two references.

The counsel argued that the court’s finding about a Dubai-based company known as Capital FZE was bound to be repeated in the other two references as well because it formed part of JIT report’s Volume-VI pertaining to subject matter of Al-Azizia.

He said the existence of Capital FZE of which Mr Sharif was stated to be the chairman belonged to the ex-PM’s son and made the basis for holding that the entire family of the applicant “daughter, sons and father are one and the same monolith” and that for this reason the applicant could not dissociate himself from the assets held in the children’s name.

The counsel said that charts of assets and liabilities of the applicant and his two sons presumed to be correct in the judgement, that adding these charts formed part of Volume-IX and IX-A of the JIT report and were common. Also, he added, the question regarding admissibility of or the opinion given in the JIT report was crucial and common in other two references. In addition, he said, the opinion rendered in the JIT report had been held admissible in evidence, inter alia, on the ground that 30-40 experts assi­sted in preparing the same, but there isn’t anything on record as to who were these experts, what was there area of expertise and for what portion of the JIT report did they assist in preparing.

Lastly, Mr Haris said, the court had held that the evidence given by one witness, Zahir Shah, was admissible simply because he was a high-ranking official in NAB.

NAB prosecutor Abbasi reques­ted the court to give him reasonable time to him to respond to the defence counsel’s arguments.

The case was adjourned till Monday.

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2018