ISLAMABAD: An accountability court has sought yet another extension to conclude two pending references against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik on Friday submitted a written request to the Supreme Court seeking the fifth extension in the trial of Mr Sharif.

Earlier on July 6, accountability judge Mohammad Bashir convicted Mr Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar in the Avenfield properties reference.

On July 28 last year, the Supreme Court while accepting the petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan and other political rivals of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader had removed Mr Sharif from the office of prime minister and directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file three references against the Sharif family.

Accountability court is hearing Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment references filed by NAB

Subsequently, NAB in September that year filed three references — Avenfield properties, Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment — against the ex-premier.

Currently, Judge Bashir is conducting trial in the Al-Azizia and Flagship references. The Supreme Court has directed the accountability court to conclude the trial within six months.

Earlier in March, the apex court extended the timeframe of the trial proceedings till May then granted one month extension twice. After the conviction of Mr Sharif and his children, the apex court set another deadline of Aug 25 for the accountability court to conclude the pending references.

In the meantime, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) transferred the case to Justice Malik who has summoned star prosecution witness Wajid Zia on Aug 27 for cross-examination in the Al-Azizia case after which the court has scheduled to record his statement in the Flagship Investment reference.

The accountability judge Justice Mohammad Bashir had discarded the money trail of the Sharif family for Avenfield properties and held that these assets were beyond known sources of income. The court awarded Mr Sharif 10 years’, Maryam seven and Capt Safdar a year’s imprisonment. The same court, however, acquitted the ex-premier of the charge related to acquiring these assets through corrupt practices, illegal or dishonest means.

The Sharif family has challenged the conviction before the IHC. The bench — comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb — has also heard the petitions seeking suspension of the sentence against Mr Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Capt Safdar.

The bench after hearing the arguments from the defence counsel and the prosecution team observed that at the moment they were not inclined to pass any order and deferred the matter till hearing of appeal. However, the bench directed the registrar office to fix these appeals soon after the end of the summer vacation.

It may be mentioned that the summer vacation in the IHC started in July and would end on Sept 9. Hence, the appeals of the Sharif family are likely to be fixed in the week commencing from Sept 10.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2018