Nawaz exempted from appearance as court hears Flagship, Al-Azizia cases

ISLAMABAD: The accountability court hearing corruption cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif allowed the accused to be exempted from today’s proceedings owing to his ill health.

As Judge Mohammad Bashir began hearing the Flagship and Al-Azizia reference, Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris pleaded the court to allow his client to be exempted from the hearing owing to his ill health. The court agreed and directed the former premier to leave after marking his attendance.

At the last hearing on Monday, when the court took up the Flagship reference, the former premier had been granted a similar exemption.

I despise horse-trading: Nawaz

Talking to the media after exiting the courtroom, Nawaz said the PML-N has never indulged in horse-trading, adding that he personally despises the buying and selling of votes.

Referring to allegations of horse-trading in the recent Senate elections by several parties, Nawaz said they are ready to talk to affected parties to form a strategy to deal with this issue.

Nawaz had reached the court earlier along with his son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar Awan and Senator Pervaiz Rasheed. The former premier took a special plane from Lahore to reach Islamabad 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.

Witness records statement

As the hearing went under way, Flagship reference witness Shahid Mahmood informed the court that he had provided NAB with copies of Nawaz’s speeches in the National Assembly and to the nation.

The speeches were also played in the courtroom.

At the last hearing, Haris had completed the cross-examination of witness Abdul Hannan.

The witness had failed to satisfy the court regarding the veracity of the documents submitted as the land registry documents did not have any signature or official stamp.

Extension for trial deadline

Last year, the Supreme Court had given a six-month deadline to the accountability court to complete the trial against the Sharif family. That deadline is ending on March 13.

The accountability court judge has contacted the apex court for an extension in the deadline, sources informed Geo News.
A special bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, is expected to hear the deadline extension plea today.
The trial against the Sharif family had commenced on September 14, 2017.

The corruption cases

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.