NAB prosecutor named to oppose Sharifs’ appeals against Avenfield conviction

ISLAMABAD: The National Account­ability Bureau (NAB) has appointed Mohammad Akram Qureshi as special prosecutor to oppose appeals against the conviction of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law retired Capt Mohammad Safdar.
Mr Akram Qureshi is a former additional judge of the Lahore High Court and was among those judges who took oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order after the 2007 emergency proclaimed by former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.
As the Islamabad High Court (IHC) bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb was formulating a strategy for expeditious disposal of the pending petitions seeking suspension of sentence against Mr Sharif, Ms Maryam and Capt Safdar, advocate Qureshi tried to drag the case to the next week.
At the outset, Khawaja Haris Ahmed, counsel for Nawaz Sharif, requested the court to decide the pending petitions first before taking up the appeals against the conviction.
He was of the view that since the Supreme Court has ordered that the pending trial against Mr Sharif in Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment references be concluded in six weeks, it was not possible for him to argue in the accountability court and the high court simultaneously.
He pointed out that since the evidence in all three references — Avenfield properties, Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment — was the same any observation of the IHC regarding it during the course of hearing of the appeals would affect the trial.
Advocate Qureshi argued that NAB wanted to produce the relevant orders of the Supreme Court regarding the similar evidence and said that the apex court had rejected the appeals of the Sharif family seeking clubbing of the three references on this ground.
Justice Minallah remarked: “We don’t want to delay this; Khawaja Haris sahib will argue his case till Wednesday and then NAB will start its arguments, in the meanwhile they [NAB] may file the relevant record.”
The prosecutor on the other hand expressed inability to present the record before Monday and suggested that the proceedings might be adjourned till next week since the bureau would obtain the certified copies of relevant court orders from the Supreme Court.
“You know this statement badly affects the reputation of your organisation,” pointed out Justice Aurangzeb as the prosecutor apparently tried to drag the court proceedings.
But Justice Minallah resolved the issue by allowing NAB to file the required documents by next Monday. The judge, however, advised Khawaja Haris to confine his arguments to the facts other than included in the evidence.
“It had been heard at length. There are some other questions for the defence counsel, since the scope of Section 426 of the Criminal Procedure Code is limited. It is not a case of bail. We cannot discuss evidence,” reminded Justice Minallah.
Khawaja Haris replied that he would try to establish the case without touching the evidence. “I will start my arguments from tomorrow,” he said.
The court directed both the prosecutor and the defence counsel to submit synopsis of their arguments by Wednesday and adjourned proceedings till Tuesday.
The court also warned NAB that in case it failed to submit the documents by Monday, the court would decide the case without any further delay.
President of the Pakistan Muslim League-N Shahbaz Sharif, Ayaz Sadiq, Marriyum Aurangzeb and other party leaders witnessed the IHC hearing.
Meanwhile, defence counsel Khawaja Haris continued cross-examination of star prosecution witness Wajid Zia in the accountability court.
During the cross-examination, Mr Zia who headed the JIT in the Panama Papers case testified that except an unattested source document, there was nothing on record which mentioned the Hill Metal Establishment (HME) as a corporate entity.
Referring to another document regarding registration of the HME, the witness informed the court that document showed that it was the sole proprietorship owned by Hussain Nawaz and was established in 2005.
He said the HME’s registration certificate was received after a request for mutual legal assistance was sent to Saudi Arabia.
Raja Zafarul Haq, Pervez Rashid, Mushahid Hussain Syed, Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Mehtab Abbasi, Javed Latif, Chaudhry Tanvir, Javed Abbasi, Saadia Abbasi, Anjum Aqeel, Malik Ibrar, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry and other PML-N leaders were present inside the courtroom.