Islamabad (September 19, 2018): Accountability Court on Wednesday adjourned the hearing of Al Azizia Steel Mills reference against Nawaz Sharif till Monday (September 24).
During the proceedings headed by Justice Mohammad Arshad Malik, harsh words were exchanged between National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor and defence lawyer Khawaja Harris.
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The prosecutor said that ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer is continuing cross-examination of the same witness over the last three months.
Harris responded that witness Mazhar Abbas is the reason behind wasting court’s time as he usually raises baseless objections.
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Earlier on September 18, during the hearing of the case, Nawaz’s counsel quizzed star witness and head of Panama Joint Investigation Team (JIT) about classified volume X of the report formulated by the six-man team.When asked whether the volume was sealed in the presence of supreme court’s registrar, Wajiz Zia responded that he was not aware of that as a year had lapsed.
During the hearing at accountability court 2, Haris further asked the witness if Volume 10 was sealed in front of him, to which Zia replied in the affirmative.On the occasion, NAB prosecutor Wasiq Malik said Volume 10 was present in the Supreme Court in a sealed package, requesting that Nawaz’s counsel should not be allowed to question Zia regarding the records.
Malik added the question on Volume 10 being present in a sealed package cannot be argued over during the cross-examination.
A separate petition should be filed in this regard, he added.
Earlier on September 17, the accountability court had given former premier Nawaz Sharif one-day exemption from personal appearance in Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference. Judge Arshad Malik heard the case in the federal capital as Sharif’s counsel Khawaja Haris resumed cross-examination of star witness Wajid Zia.
During the course of cross-examination, the counsel confronted Zia, who headed the JIT that probed the Sharif family’s wealth last year, with questions about the volume 10 of the JIT report, the Supreme Court’s verdict to keep it sealed and letters written to foreign countries under mutual legal assistance (MLA).Haris asked if the apex court had given a written order, sealing the volume. At this, the witness replied there was no written order in this regard as the court had verbally issued directives to keep it under wraps.
He requested the court to make a letter written to the Saudi authorities under MLA on May 31, 2017 part of the record. The NAB prosecutor opposed his plea.
Subsequently, the two were asked to present their respective arguments on whether to make the MLA in question part of the case record or not on next hearing.Earlier on September 13, During the hearing of the reference, Khawaja Haris submitted plea to grant one-day exemption to his client Nawaz Sharif from appearing before the court, which was accepted.Wajid Zia informed the court during hearing that Supreme Court ordered to seal volume 10 of JIT on verbal orders.
Earlier on September 12, as the hearing went underway, defence counsel Khawaja Haris apprised the court that Nawaz’s wife Begum Kulsoom had passed away. Stating that he was informed today that Nawaz had been taken to Lahore on parole after Begum Kulsoom’s death, Haris said he had not received instructions to continue with the proceedings in his client’s absence.
Judge Malik then remarked that Begum Kulsoom was a national figure and it was not appropriate to continue with the proceedings.On September 11, the NAB court rejected a postponement plea by the defence counsel in Al Azizia Steel Mills Reference Case against former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.
The accountability court judge Arshad Malik noted that the Supreme Court has ordered the references to be closed in six weeks.
The legal assistant of defence counsel Sher Afghan Asadi apprised the accountability court that Khawaja Haris was unable to attend the hearing as he was attending the Islamabad High Court hearing of the petitions pertaining to suspension of the Avenfield verdict. “The IHC hears petitions [pertaining to the Avenfield verdict] on a daily basis,” Asaid said. To this, the judge noted that the accountability court also hears the corruption references on a daily basis.
National Accountability Bureau’s prosecutor general Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said the anti-graft body’s witness Wajid Zia was present for cross-examination.
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 and his sons, Hussain and Hasan, 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.