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ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar will celebrate Eidul Azha in Adiala jail as the Islamabad High Court on Monday deferred its decision on petitions seeking their release.

This is the second time Mr Sharif will celebrate Eid in detention. Earlier, after the October 1999 coup, he was taken into custody and spent two Eids in detention.

Former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the first prime minister to have spent Eids in jail while being under arrest after the July 1977 coup.

Accountability court decides to simultaneously conclude remaining two references against ex-PM

An accountability court had on July 6 sentenced Mr Sharif to 10 years, Maryam to seven years and Capt Safdar to one year in prison in the Avenfield properties reference.

An IHC division bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb sustained an objection of the prosecution on maintainability of the petitions seeking suspension of the sentence awarded to the Sharifs.

National Accountability Bureau’s prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi argued that after filing appeals against the conviction, the convicts could not file petitions for the suspension of the verdict.

Earlier, the court had ignored this objection and asked defence counsel Khawaja Haris and Amjad Pervaiz to advance their arguments. However, when the court had asked prosecutor Abbasi to argue the case on Thursday, he sought time for filing a reply. The bench had expressed annoyance over applying delaying tactics and subsequently imposed a fine of Rs10,000 on NAB and adjourned the hearing.

The court resumed the hearing on Monday and, after concluding the arguments, told Khawaja Haris that since the appeals against the conviction had already been fixed for hearing in the second week of this month, the decision on the Sharifs’ petitions might be deferred till then.

The IHC order read: “Section 32 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999 provides for a time frame for deciding the appeals. Since the learned division bench has directed fixing of the appeals, at this stage we are not inclined to decide these petitions and they shall remain pending and be fixed along with the appeals. In case, there is delay in deciding of the appeals then the petitioners shall be at liberty to press these petitions.”

The court directed the registrar office to fix the case immediately after the summer vacations scheduled to end by Sept 11.

Last week, the court had framed 10 questions for the prosecution to answer in order to get understanding about the case. The questions relate to the price of property, determination of known sources of income at the time of purchasing of the property, comparison of discrepancies, difference between benamidar and dependent, the law to evaluate trust deed, etc.

Interestingly, the prosecution’s arguments did not address these questions. During the course of hearing, prosecutor Abbasi read out previous orders of the Supreme Court issued in the Panama Papers case and selected excerpts of a report prepared by the Joint Investigation Team.

At one stage, Justice Aurangzeb had snubbed Mr Abbasi for reading out irrelevant text and regretted that latter had never pointed out even a single proposition during the entire arguments.

Accountability court proceedings

Accountability court judge Mohammad Arshad Malik on Monday decided to conclude the remaining two references against Nawaz Sharif simultaneously.

The Islamabad police produced the former prime minister before the court.

During the course of arguments, Khawaja Haris, the counsel for Mr Sharif, said the Islamabad High Court had transferred the references to Judge Malik since accountability judge Mohmmad Bashir, instead of simultaneously deciding three references, concluded the Avenfield reference first.

Judge Malik summoned JIT head Wajid Zia for Aug 27 and adjourned the hearing.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2018