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AC To Seek Third Extension of Sharifs’ Trial Period

Islamabad (June 04, 2018): As the one-month deadline set to expire on June 9, an accountability court hearing corruption cases against Sharif Family has decided to approach the Supreme Court for yet another extension to decide the cases. 

Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir said he would write to the apex court, requesting it to extend the deadline for conclusion of the trial of the Sharif family.

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The judge was hearing the Al-Azizia Steel Mills/ Hill Metals reference when defence lawyer Khawaja Haris, representing Mr. Sharif, pointed out that he (judge) was speedily proceeding with the case today.To which, the judge said they have to dispose of this case at the earliest as the deadline for conclusion of the cases is expiring. He said he would write a letter to the top court seeking another extension.

As the hearing of the case began today, the defence counsel began cross-examination of star prosecution witness Wajid Zia, who was head of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), in the reference.

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Appearing before the court of accountability judge Muhammad Bashir, Zia, who works as an additional director at the Federal Investigation Agency, remarked that the Share Sale Agreement 1980 of Gulf Steel Mills showed that Nawaz’s cousin Tariq Shafi and Muhammad Hussain were partners.

“However, Muhammad Hussain passed away before the agreement could be materialised,” he said, adding that there was also a letter with the agreement which was signed by the legal heirs of Muhammad Hussain.

“Tariq Shafi had told JIT that Muhammad Hussain’s legal heirs were alive and that they had come to Lahore to meet him. We even asked Shafiq for the address of Hussain’s son Shehzad Hussain. However, we weren’t able to contact him,” Zia added. The hearing of the case was adjourned until June  11.

It is worthwhile to mention here that the Apex Court on May 09 had extended the deadline for concluding corruption cases against former PM Nawaz Sharif and his family until June 9.

The accountability court submitted a request to the apex court seeking another extension in the deadline to conclude the high-profile cases.

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As the hearing went under way, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, who is the monitoring judge of the corruption cases, asked why the trial has not concluded yet.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor replied that the trial has concluded in one reference.Justice Ahsan then inquired if arguments in the Avenfield reference have concluded and whether its verdict can be given separately.

When the head of the two-member bench Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh, asked how much time the defence counsel requires, Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris said he needs three months.

Haris contended that with Ramazan around the corner, a month’s extension would not be enough and the trial should not be rushed.

The court however extended the deadline for a month.

Justice Ahsan remarked that the rights of the accused will be safeguarded at all costs.On March 8, 2018, the top court extended by two months the deadline set for the trial court to decide the cases.

Background of  The Cases: 

Nawaz and his family are facing three corruption cases in the Accountability Court-I after the NAB filed references against them in light of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Panama Papers case.

The trial against the Sharif family had commenced on September 14, 2017.

The corruption references, filed against the Sharifs, pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd, and Avenfield properties of London.Nawaz and sons Hussain and Hasan are accused in all three references whereas his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Safdar are 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.

The court originally had a deadline of six months which ended in mid-March but was extended for two months after the judge requested the apex court.

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