Simultaneous decision in references: IHC reserves verdict on ex-PM’s plea

Simultaneous decision in references: IHC reserves verdict on ex-PM’s plea

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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday reserved its judgement on a petition filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supreme leader Nawaz Sharif seeking simultaneous decision in three references filed against him in the accountability court and postponement of final arguments in the Avenfield properties reference.

In the accountability court, the lead counsel for Mr Sharif continued final arguments in the reference discussing the admissibility of the report prepared by the joint investigation team (JIT) on the directives of the Supreme Court bench that had heard the Panama Papers case.

The former prime minister has filed the petition against the accountability court’s order to record final arguments in Avenfield reference instead of continuing with cross-examination of star prosecution witness Wajid Zia, the JIT head, in Al-Azizia reference.

The petition contends that since evidence in the three references is similar, the defence of the accused will be exposed if final arguments in one of the references are recorded before closure of evidence.

According to Amjad Pervez, one of the counsel for Mr Sharif, the National Accountability Bureau has relied on five of 10 volumes of the JIT report in the three references whereas entire prosecution case in the references revolves around the Gulf Steel Mills, its sale proceedings, investment with Qatari royal family and settlement of the invested amount.

He said before the IHC division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani that the prosecution was unable to complete the evidence in the references despite lapse of 10 months and the evidence in Avenfield reference was closed in nine months though the Supreme Court in its July 28, 2017 verdict had directed the accountability court to conclude the trial in six months and the defence had never caused any delay since it never sought even a single adjournment.

He argued that the accountability court had not provided right to fair trial to Mr Sharif since despite an objection raised by the defence counsel, the accountability court judge, on the insistence of NAB’s prosecution, had deviated from its earlier commitment to record testimony of star witness Zia in Al-Azizia reference and discontinued his cross examination to conclude the Avenfield reference first.

According to Mr Pervez, the court in its written order in November last year had given the commitment that the common witnesses would be testified together and the verdict in all the three references would be passed simultaneously to avoid inconsistency.

On the other hand, Additional Deputy Prosecutor General of NAB Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said after filing the petition in the IHC for postponement of final arguments, the lead defence counsel had not agreed to advance final arguments and therefore it was being continued now in the accountability court.

He said in the statement recorded under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the accused had not said they would bring any witness in their defence. Justice Kayani observed, “Perhaps the accused believes that the prosecution has failed to prove its case and there is no need to produce any witness in defence.”

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2018

Source: news

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