General

Witnesses record statements in corruption hearing against Nawaz, family

Four witnesses recorded their statements in the corruption hearing against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family on Tuesday.
Nawaz, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar reached the accountability court hearing corruption cases against them earlier today.
Strict security arrangements were in place, with a large presence of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supporters and senior government officials.
The three references have been filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in light of the Supreme Court’s July 28 judgment in the Panama Papers case.
The cases pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd, and London’s Avenfield properties.
Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir is conducting the trial.
As the proceedings began, the court began recording the statement of Sidra Mansoor, a senior official of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, in the Al Azizia reference.
After recording her statement, Mansoor was cross-examined by Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Harris. Mansoor also presented the record of Hussain Nawaz’s company Mehran Ramzan Textile Mills.
Later, the statements of Al Azizia reference witnesses Inland Revenue Commissioner Tasleem Khan, private bank official Mohammad Zubair and Uzair Rehan of NAB, recorded their statements.
Avenfield reference witness Umar Draz Gondal could not appear in court due to his ill health.
The hearing was then adjourned until January 16, when Gondal and two more prosecution witnesses — Mohammad Junejo and Afaq Ahmad — have been summoned to record their statements.
Talking to the media after leaving the courtroom, Nawaz criticised Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan over his recent marriage controversy.
The PML-N chief expressed displeasure at Imran’s handling of the issue.
Earlier, answering a journalist’s question in court if he is ready to face a new movement against him from January 17, Nawaz said they have been facing such movements since the last four and a half years.
“It has become the norm now to face such movements,” he added.
He was referring to Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Dr Tahirul Qadri’s plan to launch a protest movement against the government from Jan 17 with regards to the Model Town Inquiry Report.
To-date, 18 hearings of the Avenfield case, 19 of the Flagship case and 22 of the Al Azizia case have been held.
This is Nawaz’s 12th, Maryam’s 14th and will be Safdar’s 16th appearance in the accountability court.
At the last hearing on January 2, three witnesses recorded their statements, while six more were summoned for today.
Nawaz also spoke to the media after the last hearing and expressed disappointment at the ‘futile attempts’ to drag him in court cases.
The references
The NAB has in total filed three references against the Sharif family and another against the then-Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the accountability court, in light of the Supreme Court’s orders in the Panama Papers case verdict of July 28.
The anti-graft body was given six weeks, from the date of the apex court’s order, to file the reference in an accountability court while the accountability court was granted six months to wrap up the proceedings.
The references against the Sharif family pertain to the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, their London properties, and over dozen offshore companies allegedly owned by the family.
Maryam and Safdar are only nominated in the London properties reference. At an earlier hearing, the court also approved Maryam and Safdar’s bail in the Avenfield properties case and ordered them to submit surety bonds worth Rs5 million each.
Safdar was also directed to take the court’s permission before leaving the country from now on. The judge also provided a copy of the reference — spread over 53 volumes — to Maryam and Safdar.
NAB’s Rawalpindi branch prepared two references regarding the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, and the nearly dozen companies owned by the Sharif family.
Its Lahore branch prepared a reference on the Sharif family’s Avenfield apartments in London and another against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for owning assets beyond his known sources of income.
If convicted, the accused may face up to 14 years imprisonment and lifelong disqualification from holding public office including the freezing of bank accounts and assets.