Al-Azizia reference proceedings postponed due to Khawaja Haris' absence

Published October 2, 2018
Defence counsel Khawaja Haris outside the accountability court at an earlier hearing. — File
Defence counsel Khawaja Haris outside the accountability court at an earlier hearing. — File

An accountability court in Islamabad on Tuesday deferred trial proceedings in the Al-Azizia reference against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif due to the absence of the defence counsel.

The ousted prime minister was in court to attend the hearing. However, he did not speak to the media on his way in or out of court.

Due to senior defence counsel Khawaja Haris' absence in court, the judges accepted a junior defence lawyer's application to postpone the hearing.

According to the junior lawyer, Haris did not appear in court as he was unwell.

"We will not comment on Khawaja Haris' illness," National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar said in response, adding that the law allows junior lawyers to continue the proceeding in the senior counsel's absence.

"We postponed yesterday's proceedings due to the senior counsel's absence as well," Accountability Judge Arshad Malik said while pointing out that even the the co-counsel on the case was also absent from court today.

Earlier in the day, before appearing in court, Nawaz spent two hours at PML-N leader Abbas Afridi's farmhouse.

Before his arrival in Islamabad, a scuffle broke out between an Islamabad Police official — who was a part of Sharif's security squad — and an elite commando who was posted outside Nur Khan Airbase. Other officials on the scene intervened after which they were made to sit in their vehicles.

Transfer of Al-Azizia reference to Judge Malik

On July 6, accountability court Judge Mohammad Bashir had announced the verdict in the Avenfield properties corruption reference filed by NAB, handing the ousted prime minister 10 years as jail time for owning assets beyond known income and seven years to his daughter Maryam Nawaz for abetment.

Later on July 16, Sharif, through his counsel Khawaja Haris, had filed an appeal in the IHC for the transfer of Al-Azizia and Flagship references to another accountability court since the arguments in both cases were similar to the ones given in the Avenfield reference. Days later, Judge Bashir decided to recuse himself from hearing the two pending references.

During the course of arguments on the appeals seeking transfer of pending references, Haris had argued that at least 12 grounds were common in the three NAB references against Sharif.

Furthermore, Sharif's counsel had claimed that judge Bashir had discarded these facts before announcing the verdict on the Avenfield reference.

The cases were then shifted to the court of Accountability Judge Arshad Malik.

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