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PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. — Photo by AFP

RAWALPINDI, Oct 1: One of the two judges of a division bench of Lahore High Court (LHC)’s Rawalpindi registry excused himself from presiding over the hearing of a case related to the corruption references against PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and his family, saying as a lawyer he had remained associated with a related matter.

The bench, comprising Justice Khwaja Imtiaz Ahmed and Justice Mamoonur Rashid Sheikh, on Monday took up three petitions filed by the Sharif family seeking quashment of the Hudaibya Paper Mills, Ittefaq Foundries and Raiwind assets corruption references.

However, when Salman Butt Advocate, one of the counsel for the Sharif family, argued that the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) had gone into litigation in 1994 against the Ittefaq Foundries for recovery of loan, Justice Sheikh recalled that he also had remained associated with that case and, therefore, could not hear the matter.

The case was then adjourned till next Monday and the restraining order for the trial court proceedings in the references was also extended till that day.

During the hearing, advocate Butt told the court that the Sharif family had long been discriminated against by its rival governments. He said the family established the Ittefaq Foundries in 1962 and made it a profitable venture till the first government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto nationalised it without giving any compensation to the owners. “During that period, the foundries suffered a loss of Rs143 million and then was denationalised in 1979.”

He said the Sharif family secured finances from banks to restore their business and recovered the losses but in 1988 the then PPP government once again started damaging their business.

He alleged that the references prepared during the government of former President Pervez Musharraf were also a part of the political victimisation of the family.

Chaudhry Mohammad Riaz, the additional deputy prosecutor general of NAB, told the court that in October last year when the petition seeking quashment of the corruption references was filed, the court had restrained the federal government from proceeding against the family, but recently on the request of Sharif family’s counsel the restraining order was extended till the extent of the accountability court as well.

He said the LHC division bench then made it clear that “the court order cannot affect application for revival of these references”, adding the counsel were now resisting the application for the revival of the references.

Chaudhry Riaz also submitted to the court NAB’s reply to the petitions. The reply denied the claim of Sharif family regarding political victimisation.“When we look into the facts of the references, the petitioners acquired a large number of properties during the same period which leads to the conclusion that these properties were acquired by misusing of authority or by means of corruption and corrupt practices and the prosecution has sufficient material to prove the case.”

It claimed that all the codal formalities were taken into consideration during the course of investigation as well as before filing of references in the accountability court by chairman NAB in 2001.

The authenticity of reference and allegations contained therein can only be adjudged after recording evidence by the trial court and after summoning the accused persons (of Sharif family) and other witnesses in accordance with the law, the reply said and added that the recording of evidence was the prerogative of the trial court and the high court could not assume the jurisdiction of the lower courts.

NAB requested the LHC to reject the petitions as the family has other remedies to redress their grievances before the trial court because it is the only relevant forum that could decide the fate of these references.