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The Supreme Court on Monday directed the accountability court in Islamabad to decide the Al Azizia and Flagship corruption references against the Sharif family within the next six weeks.

The court also directed Accountability Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik to submit a progress report of the case to the apex court on a weekly basis.

During a hearing of the application seeking an extension in the deadline, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar remarked that he hoped that the defence counsel would complete his defence within the stipulated time.

Khawaja Haris, who had asked the court to extend the time frame till December, said it would be difficult for him to manage if the Islamabad High Court (IHC) starts hearing his appeal against the verdict in the Avenfield flats case. To this, the chief justice responded that the defence counsel would have to work on Saturdays as well in such a situation, as judges are already doing so.

Earlier on Friday, Judge Arshad Malik had submitted a written request to the top court, seeking a fifth extension in the trial of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The accountability court had convicted Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar in the Avenfield properties reference, whereas the court is hearing Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment references against Sharif filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

On July 28 last year, the SC while accepting the petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan and other political rivals of the PML-N leader had removed Sharif from the office of prime minister and directed NAB to file three references against the Sharif family.

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

The SC had initially directed the accountability court to conclude the trial within six months.

However, the apex court in March extended the deadline of the trial proceedings till May, and then granted two one-month extensions. After the conviction of Sharif family members, the apex court set another deadline of August 25 for the accountability court to conclude the pending references.

In the meantime, the IHC transferred the pending cases to Justice Malik, who has summoned star prosecution witness Wajid Zia for cross-examination in the Al-Azizia case today, after which the court will record his statement in the Flagship reference.