News Analysis |
The Supreme Court has extended the deadline to complete corruption references against the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif and his family members once more, on Wednesday.
The top court, in its second extension, allowed the National Accountability Bureau to complete the probe until June 9, instead of earlier May 12th deadline. The apex court ruled that it was certain about the completion of the trial by the set deadline after hearing arguments of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) representative and the defense counsel. As the hearing started, the monitoring judge appointed by the apex court, Justice Ijazul Ahsan asked NAB’s Special Prosecutor, Akbar Tarrar about why the anti-corruption body was not able to conclude the probe in the stipulated time.
Upon this, the prosecutor responded that the Avenfield properties reference has been concluded, confirming that every graft case is being heard individually. To this, Justice Ahsan observed that the Bureau would require more time to conclude the first and second references that pertain to Hill Metal establishment, Al Azizia Steel Mills and Offshore firms, though no request was made by NAB in this regard.
If the political leaders, who jump off their ship, wait for the conclusion of cases ahead of every election, they will not be able to secure tickets from other parties.
The unnecessary delay by the accountability watchdog was also noted by Justice Azmat Saeed who wondered why NAB was not recording the statements of the accused – Nawaz Sharif and his family members- under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). To the query, the NAB’s representative replied that the statements can be recorded on May 10th (today).
Justice Saeed also asked the NAB prosecutor about his non-cooperative behavior and inquired about the number of days spent for cross-examination of Wajid Zia, the head of the joint investigation team. The bench was informed that Zia was cross-examined for 16 days. During the hearing, the counsel for Nawaz Sharif, Khawaja Haris, took a different line and requested the apex court to extend the deadline by three months, instead of setting June 9th as the final day.
Citing the disturbance of schedule during Ramazan, Haris contended extra time would be needed, however, Justice Ahsan dismissed the concerns and assured that all legal requisites under Article 10-A, which pertains to the right to fair trial of the Constitution, will be fulfilled.
The deadline was granted on a request filed by the accountability court Judge, Mohammad Bashir as proceedings in the Avenfield properties, Al-Azizia, Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship references are yet to conclude. Judge Muhammad Bashir had requested the apex court in March for an extension in the time frame, following which the top court extended the deadline to May 12th.
How Would The Extension Dent The Sharifs
Apparently, the extension in the deadline might appear to be soft for the Sharif family, however, it might possibly inflict a devastating blow on them. With the final date set in June, the Sharifs will be facing a political setback.
As the corruption references were entering the final phase before the latest extension, many of the lawmakers of ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz were eyeing the decision of the accountability court to decide their political future.
The recent defections of lawmakers from south Punjab confirm that many of the bigwigs and electable people are sitting on the fence, waiting for the decision of the accountability court. The extension has dashed their hopes once again as they have to wait for another month to decide whether they get to stay with the Sharifs or take another course.
The apex court ruled that it was certain about the completion of the trial by the set deadline after hearing arguments of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) representative and the defense counsel.
Having the deadline of 9th June in mind, the decision for ‘turncoats’ to switch their loyalties has become easier as they are now forced to be swift in their strategy. If the political strategists wait for June, they will be on the downside as the forthcoming elections are scheduled to take place after July. May is the final month for the politicians to express their allegiance with political parties because the ticket distribution and interview process for the candidates has already started.
If the political leaders, who jump off their ship, wait for the conclusion of cases ahead of every election, they will not be able to secure tickets from other parties. On the other hand, if they stay with PML-N, they are also in danger owing to the damaging revelations made by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the Sharif family.
The smoking gun which can send the elder Sharif behind bars is the date of purchase of upscale London flats. NAB claims that the Avenfield Properties were bought in the 1990s, however, the Sharif family contends that they got a hold of the said apartments in 2006.
If Sharif is sent behind bars, it will be a clear message for the current members of PML-N that the party is not coming to power after the elections, as public prefers to vote for the influentials. The only viable option left for the PML-N members after the latest deadline is to ditch the party and look for other options, further imperiling the Sharif family.