Court reserves decision on Nawaz, Maryam's appearance exemption pleas

ISLAMABAD: The accountability court conducting corruption proceedings against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family reserved its decision on the suspects’ plea seeking a brief exemption from appearance.

Appearing in court for the Avenfield properties case hearing, Nawaz and daughter Maryam submitted the request seeking exemption from appearing in court for a week starting March 26.

A medical report of Nawaz’s wife, Kulsoom, was attached along with the request. Kulsoom has been in London undergoing treatment for lymphoma since late last year.

Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris informed the judge that Kulsoom will be undergoing chemotherapy and her doctors have advised Nawaz’s presence beside his wife.

The request states that Ali Aimal and Jahangir Jadoon will appear in place of Nawaz and Maryam respectively.

Opposing the request, prosecutor Afzal Qureshi argued that the suspects should not be allowed to leave the country as the trial is in its concluding stages.

An earlier similar request of Nawaz to visit his ailing wife was turned down by the court.

Wajid Zia, a serving additional director of the Federal Investigation Agency who headed the joint investigation team (JIT) which probed the Sharif family’s assets last year on the Supreme Court’s orders,  will resume recording his statement and submit documents today.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed three interim corruption references against the Sharif family in September last year in light of the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case. The bureau recently filed supplementary references in all three cases as well.

At the last hearing of the Avenfield reference on March 20, Nawaz’s counsel had petitioned to seek clarity on what all can be submitted by Zia.

A day later, the court ruled on the request stating that the former head of the JIT could not comment on whether the defendant was guilty and the court would form its own opinion, independent of Zia’s opinion.

The cases

The trial against the Sharif family had commenced on September 14, 2017.
The corruption references, filed against the Sharif family, 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 MNA Capt (retd) 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.