Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Witnesses record statements in corruption cases against Nawaz, family

Nawaz Sharif and daughter Maryam arriving at the court today.
Nawaz Sharif and daughter Maryam arriving at the court today.

ISLAMABAD: The accountability court hearing three corruption cases against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family resumed its proceedings on Wednesday, GEO TV reported. 
Despite being exempted from appearance, the former premier and his daughter, Maryam, are attending today's hearing. 
Four prosecution witnesses have been summoned today to record their statements after two witnesses recorded their statements at the last hearing and were cross-examined.
Nawaz and his family are facing three corruption references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in light of the Supreme Court's July 28 judgment in the Panama Papers case.
Nawaz and his two sons, Hussain and Hasan, are nominated in all three references whereas Maryam and her husband MNA Capt (retd) Safdar are only accused in one.
Safdar is also present for today's hearing. He arrived after the former premier and his daughter. 
As the hearing began, Maryam submitted a request asking the court to alter her exemption period. The former premier's daughter now seeks exemption from court appearance from December 5, 2017 to January 5, 2018.
Nawaz's counsel, Khwaja Harris, completed the cross-examination of NAB's witness, Mohammad Rasheed, after he recorded his statement. 
Afterward, NAB's second witness, Mazhar Raza Bangash, recorded his statement in the Avenfield reference. He was cross-examined by Harris and Amjad Pervez, the counsel of Maryam and Safdar. 
Speaking informally to journalists inside the courtroom, Nawaz said his government was not allowed to work, adding that despite the dharnas (sit-ins) which began from 2014, the country progressed.    
Referring to the courts' alleged lenient attitude towards Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Nawaz said the rules of the game should be the same. 
He said court decisions in their case come swiftly and wondered when the decision on 'their' cases will come. "The courts' double standards are becoming evident," he said further. 
The disqualified premier also deplored the use of terms 'Sicilian mafia' and 'godfather' terms by the judiciary.  
Corruption scandals of PTI leaders Imran, Jahangir Tareen and Aleem Khan also surfaced, he said further. 
Nawaz also hit out at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, a PTI leader, saying he used official vehicles to lead rallies against the federal government during the 2014 sit-in. 
Later, during the hearing, when a reporter's wallet fell out of his pocket, Nawaz quipped that he should pick it up immediately otherwise someone else will steal it and he (Nawaz) will be blamed for it.
The former premier later left the proceedings alongside his daughter. 
At the last hearing on November 15, the court had accepted Nawaz and Maryam's request to be exempted from personal appearance.
The two had sought exemption on the account of the medical condition of Nawaz's wife, Kulsoom, who is undergoing treatment for lymphoma in London.
The court allowed Nawaz to be exempted for a week and Maryam for a month. 
Also at the last hearing, Hussain and Hasan Nawaz were declared proclaimed offenders due to their continuous absence.
The NAB has in total filed three references against the Sharif family and another against 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 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 Avenfiled properties case and ordered them to submit surety bonds worth Rs. 5 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.

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