General

NAB seeks more time in Sharifs’ plea for suspension of Avenfield verdict

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Thursday sought two more days from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to present its arguments against the pleas filed by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar seeking suspension of the verdict in the Avenfield properties reference.
A two-member bench of the IHC, comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, had directed NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi to conclude his arguments in the case today.
However, as the hearing went under way, the NAB deputy prosecutor said, “I have been directed to ask for an adjournment of two days.”
When Justice Minallah questioned Abbasi whether the “NAB chairman had directed” him, the deputy prosecutor general responded, “The prosecutor general asked me.”
To this, Nawaz’s counsel, Khawaja Harris, protested and said, “The pleas were filed a month ago.”
Further, Justice Minallah remarked, “There needs to be a solid reason for adjournment. This is not right.”
When the NAB deputy prosecutor suggested recusing himself from the case, Justice Aurangzeb observed, “There were no objections when we heard the petition for transfer of the case.”
“The judgment was based on merit,” asserted.
Justice Minallah also questioned if anyone had any objections to the bench and stated, “All respondents are equal before us.”
The IHC judge then asked Abbasi if he can conclude his arguments on Monday to which he responded, “I will have to ask first.”
However, Justice Aurangzeb said, “You are wasting our time.”
Further, Maryam and Capt (retd) Safdar’s counsel, Amjad Pervez, said, “Private parties seek more time but for an institution to do this is beyond my understanding.”
The two-member bench then told the NAB deputy prosecutor general to submit his initial reservations.
“Consult each other and adopt one stance, we are considering penalising you for wasting the court’s time,” he added.
Abbasi then assured the bench that he will conclude his arguments on Monday.
As Justice Minallah decided to give NAB a last chance to present its arguments on Monday, Advocate Pervez raised the point that the NAB prosecutor general be summoned so he can present their stance.
However, Abbasi said he is busy with another case in Lahore and will not be able to appear before the bench. To this, Justice Aurangzeb remarked, “In 18 years of legal practice, I have never before come across such a reason to seek adjournment.”
A day earlier, Nawaz’s counsel concluded his arguments after the bench rejected the NAB deputy prosecutor general’s request for more time.
Abbasi had sought time to provide paragraph-wise comments in line with the request of Nawaz’s counsel. However, Justice Minallah had remarked, “We cannot adjourn the hearing on these grounds.”
Nawaz, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar, were convicted by accountability judge Mohammad Bashir in Avenfield reference on July 6.
The Sharifs had challenged their convictions in the IHC, highlighting the legal flaws in the Avenfield case judgment and asking for the accountability court’s verdict to be declared null and void, and the three convicts be released on bail.
The trial
The trial against the Sharif family commenced on September 14, 2017.
On July 6, after four extensions in the original six-month deadline to conclude all three cases, the court announced its verdict in the Avenfield reference.
Nawaz was sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison and slapped a £8 million fine (Rs1.3 billion) in the corruption reference, while his daughter Maryam was sentenced to eight years with a £2 million fine (Rs335 million). Capt (retd) Safdar was also given a one-year sentence without any fine.
Nawaz and his sons, Hussain and Hassan, are accused in all three references whereas Maryam and Safdar were accused in the Avenfield reference only.
The two brothers, based abroad, have been absconding since the proceedings began last year and were declared proclaimed offenders by the court.
On July 10, the Supreme Court granted another six-week extension for Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir to conclude the remaining corruption references against Nawaz and former finance minister Ishaq Dar.