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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday imposed a fine of Rs10,000 on the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for using delaying tactics in the matter related to release of incarcerated former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter and son-in-law.

Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb of the IHC division bench reproached Additional Deputy Prosecutor General (ADPG) of NAB, Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, for what they said wasting the court’s time “since instead of arguing on the petitions seeking release of Mr Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and retired Capt Mohammad Safdar, the prosecutor is insisting that the bench adjourn the proceedings”.

“What should we write in our order? Why NAB is seeking adjournment?” asked Justice Aurangzeb. “Is this appropriate for us to write that the hearing has been adjourned because the NAB prosecutor does not want to continue arguments.”

Earlier, the court had fixed Thursday for final arguments of the prosecution on three identical petitions filed by the supreme leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Ms Maryam and Mr Safdar, seeking suspension of sentence awarded to them in the Avenfield properties reference.

Reproves Bureau’s prosecutor for seeking adjournment instead of advancing arguments on pleas seeking release of ex-PM and his daughter, son-in-law

Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir had sentenced Nawaz Sharif to 10 years in jail, Ms Maryam to seven years and Mr Safdar to 1-year jail term on July 6. Subsequently, they had filed the petitions seeking suspension of the sentence on July 16.

The IHC bench issued a notice to the NAB chairman the following day.

The hearing of these petitions resumed on Monday and the court directed the defence counsel and the prosecution to conclude their arguments by Thursday.

As per the court’s directive, the lawyers for the Sharif family concluded their arguments on Wednesday and the court asked the prosecution to advance arguments on Thursday.

When the court commenced proceedings on Thursday and asked the prosecutor Abbasi to start arguments, he sought adjournment on the ground that “NAB needs time to file para-wise comments”.

The refusal of the prosecutor annoyed the bench and Justice Aurangzeb remarked, “Is that in accordance with the norms of decency? It has never happened in any court anywhere in the world where the prosecutor seeks adjournment to file reply after arguments of defence counsel.”

Mr Abbasi said that he had received (such) instructions from the higher authorities. “It is crooked instruction,” Justice Aurangzeb retorted. “There should be valid grounds for seeking adjournment,” he said.

“How can you ask for adjournment at this stage when you were supposed to respond to questions we had framed for you to get understanding of the matter,” the IHC judge asked the prosecutor.

“Who gave these instructions by the way?” Mr Abbasi was asked. “Prosecutor general of NAB,” was his reply.

Justice Minallah expressing displeasure said, “Mr Abbasi, you should have told us (that) at the very outset. It is inappropriate that the court heard your objection and delayed hearing of petitions for this week.”

Amjad Pervaiz, counsel for Maryam Nawaz, said that in routine practice, “the lawyer of a private party seeks such adjournments to linger on the case but it never happens when the prosecution of a state institution has filed such an application”.

At this, Additional Prosecutor General of NAB Jahanzeb Bharwana, who was ‘assisting’ the ADPG, intervened and said that the bureau had raised objections but the court did not pass on an order on these objections.

Justice Aurangzeb said that the prosecution should start arguments sand the bench would address the objections in the final order.

Khawaja Haris, the counsel for Nawaz Sharif, told the bench that he had full confidence in the bench and it might pass any order but his contentions about the conduct of the chairman and prosecutor general of NAB might also be added to the order sheet.

Justice Minallah adjourning the hearing till Monday dictated the court order which read, “The case was fixed for Thursday. Additional deputy prosecutor general, when asked to argue, sought adjournment to file written reply. Learned counsel for the petitioners opposed the adjournment. Since application seeking filing of reply was filed after the arguments of counsel for the petitioners, therefore, in the interest of justice cost of Rs10,000 be imposed on the prosecution.”

The written order also incorporated the undertaking of APG Bharwana that he would conclude arguments by Monday.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2018