Accountability court granted third extension to conclude corruption references against Sharifs

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Islamabad, Jun 10: The Supreme Court on Sunday directed the accountability court to wrap up the trial against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members in the corruption references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) within a month.

Granting the court a one-month extension — the third one so far — to conclude all three references against the Sharifs, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar rejected lawyer Khawaja Harris’s request for the case to be wrapped up in six weeks.

Justice Nisar ordered that the accountability court should now hear the case six days a week instead of five. The length of the hearings will also be determined by the court.

“You people advertise the fact that the [accountability] court does not let them [Sharifs] visit Kulsoom Nawaz,” the chief justice remarked during the case, adding that if Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer was to give the apex court even a verbal application, it would allow the PML-N supremo to visit his ailing wife.

On July 28 last year, a five-member SC bench in its Panama Papers judgment had directed NAB to file references against Nawaz and his children, and the trial court to decide the references within six months.

In March, the apex court had granted a two-month extension to the accountability court to complete the proceedings. When the trial could not be completed in the stipulated time despite day-to-day hearings, the SC in May had granted one more month to decide the references. That deadline lapsed on Saturday.

The accountability court is hearing final arguments in the Avenfield properties reference. The counsel of Sharif has challenged accountability judge Mohammad Bashir’s order of hearing final arguments, saying that it is contrary to what the judge had ruled earlier according to which the court was supposed to proceed in all references — Avenfield properties, Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment — simultaneously since the key evidence in the three references is the same.

The court has yet to record statements of Wajid Zia in the Flagship reference and two investigation officers in Al-Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship references, respectively.

Once the statements are recorded, defence counsel Khwaja Haris would cross-examine the witnesses.

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