News Desk |
An accountability court dismissed on Friday the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)’s petition seeking legal proceedings against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Maryam Nawaz for using a ‘bogus trust deed’ in the Avenfield properties case.
Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir dismissed NAB’s plea saying it was not admissible for hearing since Maryam Nawaz has already filed an appeal against the original decision of the NAB court and her appeal is pending with Islamabad High Court. On previous hearing, the court had issued a notice to Maryam on an application of NAB requesting the court to exercise its powers against the accused for tendering false evidence in the Avenfield Apartments reference.
Judge Bashir, who had conducted the Avenfield properties case and sentenced the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar in 2018, has issued notice to Maryam for July 19.
NAB has made Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-) vice president Maryam Nawaz respondent in the instant application. In the Avenfield reference, NAB had arrayed Sharif, Maryam, Safdar and Sharif’s sons – Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz – as accused.
NAB prayed the court to exercise its powers and initiate on its own accord action against the respondent as contemplated under section 30 of NAO, 1999.
During the trial, Maryam was facing the charge of producing an alleged forged trust deed before the Supreme Court that was scripted in Calibri font which as per the joint investigation team (JIT) report was not available in the market in 2006 when trust deed was prepared, hence, it was forged. Captain Safdar was a signatory of the trust deed as a witness.
The prosecution witness, a forensic expert Robert W Radley, however, had admitted before the accountability court, when questioned by the defense counsels, that the Calibri font had been in existence since April 2005 in the beta version of Windows Vista – however he clarified that Calibri font in its beta version could have only been used by experts if they wanted to and its difficult to imagine why common people writing commercial documents will go out of the way to use a font that was not commercially available. He had earlier concluded, as quoted by Joint Investigation Team (JIT of Supreme Court on Panama Investigations) that Calibri font could not have been used in the ‘fabricated’ trust deed of Avenfield properties submitted in the court by Maryam as it was not commercially available before January 31, 2007.
In the application, NAB’s deputy prosecutor general stated that Maryam was one of the accused in the Avenfield properties reference and the court had specifically concluded in the judgment passed on July 6, 2018, that she produced bogus trust deed. The prosecutor said that the court had reached the conclusion after evaluating the entire evidence.
In addition, the application read, it is apparent that the respondent has maliciously fabricated and tendered false evidence with the intention to mislead the due process of law and trial and hamper the administration of justice on which action ought to have been initiated on its own accord by the court as contemplated under section 30 read with Sr. No. 3 of the Schedule of the NAB Ordinance (NAO), 1999.
NAB prayed the court to exercise its powers and initiate on its own accord action against the respondent as contemplated under section 30 of NAO, 1999. However Judge Bashir of Accountability Court-1, maintained that Maryam Nawaz has already appealed against the decision in High Court, this appeal is pending and NAB should come back once High Court decides the appeal.
Why Court had Removed Calibri Font Issue from Charge-sheet?
The issue of using Calibri font in a trust deed produced by the daughter of the former prime minister was relegated to cold storage after the court had removed the portion pertaining to the font from the charge-sheet of the Avenfield Apartments reference in November 2017.
Judge Bashir had accepted Maryam and Safdar’s application for altering the charge-sheet to exclude the Calibri font issue. He had held that the Calibri font issue could be taken up after the reference was concluded.
NAB prosecutors had opposed the request at that time and insisted that the court should take cognizance of any false document during the proceedings.
The couple’s counsel Amjad Parvaiz had said that the court could take up the matter after the final judgment if it found any forged documents during the trial.
Maryam and Safdar had filed the application before the court, stating that framing of charges about the “use of Calibri font in the trust deed at this juncture is a violation of the Supreme Court’s July 28 judgment”.
On October 19, 2017, Judge Bashir had framed charges against Maryam, Safdar, and ex-PM in the Avenfield Apartments reference.
“A false, fabricated trust deed dated February 2, 2006, in Calibri font was filed whereas no such font was available for such purposes … in that year,” the charge-sheet had stated, adding “That deed was signed by accused Maryam Nawaz as well as co-accused Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar. By filing such declaration, you both tried to mislead the investigation agency.”
Pervaiz had asked the court that the matter of bearing false evidence should be taken upon the pronouncement of judgment. “The framing of charges at this stage is illegal and without jurisdiction,” he had argued. Additional charges were added by the Judge of the court, NAB’s original case did not contain the documents supporting the charge of forgery. Why NAB did not provide the necessary documentation (Deed written in Calibri font) is not fully understood. However NAB sources point out that Qamar Zaman Chaudhry was Chairman NAB till October 2017 and he was generally seen to be reluctant in pressing hard on Sharif family.
Citing the investigation report, Amjad Pervaiz, Maryam’s lawyer, had said the investigating officer had recommended the filing of reference against petitioners and three others on allegations of assets beyond means under Section 9(a) of NAO, 1999. He had maintained that the NAB chairman had filed the reference under sections 9(a)(iv)(v)(xii) and serial No 2 of the schedule of the NAB ordinance.
But, he had contended, a perusal of the charge reflected that in addition to offences mentioned in the reference, the accountability court also proceeded to frame charge in terms of the offence mentioned at serial No 3(a) of the schedule of NAO 1999.
Citing the Supreme Court’s July 28 judgment, Pervaiz had said that framing of charge pertaining to an alleged false and fabricated trust deed by using Calibri font was a violation of the judgment itself as the trial had not yet concluded and no such issue had arisen before the trial court.
Quoting relevant portions of the SC judgment, he had said: “In case the accountability court finds any deed, document or affidavit filed by or on behalf of the respondent(s) or any other person to be fake, false, forged or fabricated, it shall take appropriate action against the person(s) concerned in accordance with law.”
NAB prosecutors had opposed the request at that time and insisted that the court should take cognizance of any false document during the proceedings. Following arguments, the court, however, had accepted the application and observed that it would take up the matter after final judgment. NAB filed its fresh reference in view of the Court’s judgment of June 2018 in which court had found Maryam Nawaz guilty of forgery.