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Nawaz Sharif left accountability court without being indicted

02 October, 2017

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Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday left the accountability court without being indicted in three graft cases prepared by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against him and his family.

The former PM had arrived around 8:30am at the court amid tight Rangers deployment. During the hearing, the PML-N lawyer argued that all of the accused in the case have to appear in court before an indictment can take place. Nawaz, his children — Hussain, Hassan, and Maryam — and Captain Safdar are expected to appear in court on October 9 and be indicted in the corruption cases.

Non-bailable arrest warrants have been issued for Nawaz Sharif's children and son-in-law. While speaking to the media, PML-N lawyer Khawaja Haris said, "Nawaz Sharif's children have no problem with appearing in court; they have been unable to do so as their mother is ill and they are all in London."

Earlier in the day, it was said that unlike the last hearing — during which Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was indicted — reporters will be permitted to witness the proceedings.

However, no one — including senior PML-N leadership — was allowed to set foot in the court before the former prime minister entered it.

After waiting outside for nearly 30 minutes, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal lashed out on security forces for keeping PML-N leaders, lawyers and supporters of Nawaz Sharif from entering the court.

Iqbal, speaking to the media, said that security forces had barred PML-N leaders, lawyers and supporters of Nawaz Sharif enter the court — in spite of an earlier decision to let selected PML-N members and media personnel go in.

To diffuse tension created by Iqbal’s scathing remarks, the Rangers’ chief met PML-N leadership present and asked them to enter the court.

However, Iqbal refused to enter the court and said that he would get to the bottom of the matter and find out who had issued the order to security forces to bar media personnel and PML-N leadership from entering the court.

He said the Islamabad chief commissioner had earlier decided on the names of media personnel and PML-N leaders and supporters who would be allowed to enter the court on Monday, adding that the commissioner informed him this morning that "Rangers have suddenly appeared and taken over this place".
Accountability hearings

Sharif had earlier appeared before the accountability court on September 26 in connection with three corruption references filed by NAB against him and his family members. However, the court declined the former prime minister's request for exemption from personal attendance.

The Supreme Court had disqualified on July 28 in the Panama Papers case and ordered NAB to file corruption and money laundering references against the Sharif family and Finance Minister Dar in the light of the Joint Investigation Team’s report. Dar has already been indicted in the reference against him for possessing assets beyond his known sources of income.

As a result, NAB had filed three references against the Sharif family in connection with the London properties, the establishment of 16 companies, including Flagship Investment Ltd in the UK and Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment in Jeddah.

The former premier and his sons have been named in all three references, while Maryam and Capt Safdar have only been named in the Avenfield reference.

The former prime minister's children Hassan, Hussain and Maryam as well as son-in-law retired Captain Safdar have failed to appear in court for the third time, in spite of the bailable arrest warrants issued against them by the accountability court.

“Since Mian sahib’s children are busy looking after their mother [Kulsoom Nawaz] they are unlikely to appear in the accountability court in Islamabad on Oct 2,” Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah had told reporters Saturday.

He said that Sharif's children could not leave their mother considering her illness. Begum Kulsoom has undergone three surgeries in connection with lymphoma (throat cancer) in London. Her condition is stable, according to Maryam.

Skipping court proceedings for the third consecutive time may result in the court issuing non-bailable warrants, a legal expert warns. “The accountability court may issue non-bailable arrest warrants for the suspects for skipping the proceedings for the third consecutive time. However, in normal practice, non-bailable arrest warrants are issued for continuous non-compliance of the court’s order,” Supreme Court Advocate Mubeen Qazi had told mediamen.

However, it is the court’s discretion to issue non-bailable arrests warrants or give the suspects another chance in any case. “In [the case of] continuous non-appearance, the National Accountability Bureau may write to the interior ministry requesting the issuance of red warrants for the suspect,” Advocate Qazi had said.

Maryam, who is active on social media, especially after arriving in London, did not reveal whether she was planning to appear before the court or not. She had earlier advised her father not to appear in the accountability court — counsel which he ignored.

On Saturday the former prime minister's daughter tweeted: “What was the ‘ilzam’ (allegation) in Panama Papers case? There was no ilzam. Had there been anything scandalous in it, they wouldn’t have to hide behind iqama (work permit). He (Nawaz) could have been disqualified for being Nawaz Sharif. That could have been the most plausible excuse.”

“Begum Kulsoom’s condition necessitates that her family stay with her. Nawaz Sharif may also leave for London after his appearance in the accountability court,” Sanaullah had said.

Regarding his appearance before the court, Sanaullah had said that Nawaz Sharif has decided to appear before the accountability court in NAB references in order to expose the targeted trial.” “We do not have any faith in this trial as justice should be visible,” he had declared.

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