News Analysis |
Nawaz Sharif arrived with his daughter, Maryam Nawaz and his son-in-law, Captain Muhammad Safdar in the same car, surrounded by a 30-vehicle motorcade for the hearing at the accountability court.
They arrived at the accountability court to fight the corruption references put forward by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). They showed up for the case in order to fulfill their legal requirements for attendance. But in what seemed an apparent disregard for the charges against them, after Khawaja Haris, their own legal counsel had finished his arguments, the Sharif family left, without even hearing the NAB prosecution present their arguments.
The decision will then determine if the whole case starts all over again or not and if the Sharif’s continue with their cat and mouse game of evading accountability.
The previous hearing from the 3rd of November ended with arrest warrants being issued for Nawaz Sharif with permission to be out on bail. His lawyer Khawaja Haris today argued that all three references should be clubbed together. He cited the fact that the defense for the references and witnesses for all three were the same so the court should put them together.
The counsel stated that of the twenty-two witness statements for both cases, there were six common witnesses between two of the references; the Flagship Investment and the Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference. Haris argued that even if three references remain, a single trial should be held and only one sentence announced if they are found guilty.
He argued that under the Islamabad High court order the accountability court had been asked to consider the cases in light of Section 17-D. Section 17-D states: “A person accused of more offenses than one of the same kind…may be charged with and tried at one trial for any number of such offenses.”
The Supreme court decision on further investigation by the JIT was on 20 April 2017. Supreme court decision on July 28 disqualified Nawaz Sharif.
However, because all three charges are not from the same area or time frame it is going to be difficult for Khawaja Haris’s demand to be met. Khawaja Haris then stated that if the court clubbed the references together then the accountability court would have to indict Nawaz, Maryam and Captain Safdar again. The last hearing by the accountability court on 3 November had been adjourned when the accountability court did not procure the order that had been passed by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to club the references together.
Today’s proceedings were on the applicability of this argument to the current references. This legal structure now once again seems like it is being used to stall accountability in the cases. The Panama papers first release of information was in April 2016. The Supreme court decision on further investigation by the JIT was on 20 April 2017. Supreme court decision on July 28 disqualified Nawaz Sharif.
Read more: Accountability or regime change?
The previous hearing from the 3rd of November ended with arrest warrants being issued for Nawaz Sharif with permission to be out on bail.
The process to indict the Sharifs has taken another 3 months due to their traveling outside Pakistan, leaving for Umrah or citing bad health to go to England and not appearing for all sessions of the court. Analysts are claiming that this is the strategy the Nawaz team will continue, to avoid any convictions before the elections in 2018.
The court will announce the decision on clubbing the references together tomorrow. The decision will then determine if the whole case starts all over again or not and if the Sharifs’ continue with their strategy of evading accountability.