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News Analysis |

On 2nd November, Islamabad High Court (IHC) accepted the plea entered by the ousted ex-Prime Minister related with the accountability court’s decision to dismiss his request to club the three references. The accountability court had not given any reasons for the rejection of the plea by the defendant. 

House of Sharif had earlier requested the accountability court to allow him a joint trial on the three references put forward by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Read more: Nawaz Sharif’s next adventure?

Panama Judgment and Accountability Court Hearings

The Judgment in Panama case had directed NAB file three references against the former PM, per incurium, for being repugnant to Article 4,9,10-A, 13 and 25 of the Constitution.

On the direction of the Apex Court, criminal proceedings in the accountability court summoned the Sharifs.

The charges against the family included making illegal assets in London, submission of fake documents in London and failure to reveal the sources of their income. However, Khawaja Harris’s junior lawyer-Zafir Khan pleaded not guilty on Sharif’s behalf.

Nawaz did not appear on 19th September but returned amid media frenzy on 26th September and 2nd October. The rowdy behavior of the PML-N lawyers disrupted the court proceedings, and later on 13th October sighting his wife’s ill health, Nawaz missed the court proceedings again.

On 19th and 20th October, Nawaz Sharif was charged in absentia in all three references– London flats, Flagship Investment Ltd and Azizia Steel Mills.

The charges against the family included making illegal assets in London, submission of fake documents in London and failure to reveal the sources of their income. However, Khawaja Harris’s junior lawyer-Zafir Khan pleaded not guilty on Sharif’s behalf.

Read more: Imran Khan readying for a blitzkreig?

Nawaz’s plea to club the references

Earlier, on October 13th, on behalf of Sharif’s advocate, Muhammad Kassim Mirjat had filed the petition in Supreme Court to consolidate the three separate references. He had argued that the filing of three separate references is illegal and it violates the law, the Constitution and the fundamental rights of Sharifs.

The petitioner claimed that according to the section 9 (a)(v) of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999, the filing of multiple references against Sharifs’ for alleged ownership of assets against its known sources is repugnant.

Rejection of clubbing plea by the SC registrar

But, on 20th October, the registrar office of the Supreme Court had returned the petition sighting it to be not maintainable. It remarked that Nawaz had already exhausted all the legal remedies in the Apex Court and did not approach any other appropriate forum available.

Appeal against SC registrar’s Objection

On 24th October, Nawaz Sharif filed a petition in the Apex Court against the registrar of Supreme Court. The petition labeled the rejection baseless. The appeal stated “there is no bar in the law or the Constitution that may prevent a citizen from approaching the august court by invoking Article 184(3) against any judicial pronouncement, which is per incurium,”. 

Again, on 28th October, Nawaz Sharif applied to hear his appeal against the Supreme Court registrar office. But, Supreme Court is yet to entertain the petition, thus far.

It further argued that Supreme Court has unlimited jurisdiction and it could intervene at any stage serving the fundamental rights of its citizens.

Besides, Nawaz wanted Apex Court to suspend accountability court proceedings in references against him till the filing of a consolidated reference by the NAB.

Again, on 28th October, Nawaz Sharif applied to hear his appeal against the Supreme Court registrar office. But, Supreme Court is yet to entertain the petition, thus far.

Read more: Nawaz’s rare outburst against Zardari exposes PPP-PML(N) tensions

Islamabad High Court directs NAB to rehear Nawaz’s Plea

It did not subjugate the right of the defendant to not go to the High Court. Supreme Court registrar had asked the defendants that it has not approached any other appropriate forum available to him for relief.

The problem is that the honorable accountability judge should have given a reasoned objection rather than giving a sweeping order. 

 It is why the IHC bench comprising of Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani and Justice Aamer Farooq accepted the plea and issued an order to the accountability court to give the reasoning and explanation for rejecting the plea for clubbing of references. Islamabad High Court explained that the accountability court failed to provide a solid reason for its verdict.

Why did Apex Court not unify three references?

The Supreme Court had purposely directed NAB to file three references against Nawaz and his children.  It pointed that crimes had taken place in three different countries-KSA, UAE, and the UK. The nature of crimes, time periods, and the people involved in the process varied resulting in the formation of multiple references against the culprit. Besides, the transactions, sources of funding, trust deeds, and assets are different. Therefore, justifications are different, and references cannot be clubbed into one.

The problem is that the honorable accountability judge should have given a reasoned objection rather than giving a sweeping order. 

Read more: Is PTI’s future as a political entity hanging in a balance?

Can unification of references favor House of  Nawaz?

The unification of three-references can make the life remarkably easy for the house of Nawaz (the defendants) but, the prosecution can struggle as defendants will give justification on one reference rather than three different ones, which will require rigorous cross-examination of information provided.

Will this ploy to delay proceedings work for Nawaz?

It all appears to be a tactical move to buy time.  It can potentially dismantle the regular court proceedings and delay the hearings for as long as possible.  They want to drag the cases to Senate elections at least. The win in Senate elections could guarantee a more potent power weapon to terrorize the judiciary, NAB and opposition, against the agitation and to retake control of the party. 

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