News Analysis |
On Wednesday, the accountability court adjourned the trial proceedings of the Sharif family till 22nd November after formally starting them against the ousted and indicted Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, his daughter, Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain Safdar in the three graft references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
The references were filed in-line with the unanimous verdict of the Supreme Court on the Panama Case.The references are related to the Flagship Investment Ltd, the Avenfield (London) properties and Jeddah-based Al-Azizia Company and Hill Metal Establishment.
Read more: Nawaz Sharif and the Supreme Court’s decision
The trio was indicted last month, something that analysts termed as a real setback to the former ruling family. Following the set sequence, the accountability court kicked off the much-awaited trial.
Experts had argued that the refusal to club the references was a blow to Sharifs’ dilatory tactics. The fresh petition is seemingly a last-ditch effort to somehow delay proceedings and conviction.
Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz were given 7 days and 1-month exemption from appearances in the anti-graft court, respectively. Both, after arriving in the court along with an army of federal ministers and lawmakers from the PML-N, had filed separate applications that sought exemptions from hearings.
“We have been together for 40 years, I can’t abandon my wife in testing times,” Sharif said in his application while referring to his wife, Kulsoom Nawaz. Meanwhile, Maryam said that she would continue unless she has to travel abroad. Amid mounting trouble, the exemption is a temporary relief.
Regardless, the accountability court undertook proceedings. Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Inland Revenue Department’s representative Jahangir Ahmad appeared in the court as the prosecution’s second witness after Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s (SECP) joint registrar, Sidra Mansoor tendered her statement in the Avenfield flats reference as the first witness in the trial.
Read more: Can Nawaz Sharif’s “absconder sons” be forced to appear before Court?
Mansoor said that she had provided NAB documents pertaining to the Sharif family’s financial record when she appeared in front of the NAB investigative officer in August this year. “The records that NAB has presented in court hold my signatures and thumb impressions,” Mansoor told the accountability court while adding that, the records also contain audit reports of the Sharif family’s different businesses.
“We have been together for 40 years, I can’t abandon my wife in testing times,” Sharif said in his application while referring to his wife, Kulsoom Nawaz.
Sidra Mansoor said that the Hudabiya Paper Mills audit reports consistently show Rs. 4,946,000 in the company’s account from 2000 to 2005. Sharif’s counsel, Khawaja Haris retorted and claimed the SECP furnished photocopies without the stamps. However, Mansoor dispelled the assertion, claiming that the SECP was provided with documents by the Sharif family.
Time is Money
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) accepted a petition by the Sharif family, seeking the clubbing of the three references. Earlier, the accountability court had rejected a plea to lump together the graft references. Experts had argued that the refusal to club the references was a blow to Sharifs’ dilatory tactics. The fresh petition is seemingly a last-ditch effort to somehow delay proceedings and conviction.
However, by the look of things, the noose around the neck of the ruling party is tightening. Analysts are also of the opinion that the party may resort to campaigns aimed at discrediting the judiciary. Senior reporter of ARY News, Sabir Shakir, predicted that the Lahore High Court that is hearing the Model Town carnage case will also be targeted in the campaign.
Despite speculations about Nawaz’s dwindling position in the party, he is chairing a meeting in the Punjab House; federal ministers and other stalwarts of the PML-N are attendees. Apparently, Nawaz’s support is still intact.
Mansoor said that she had provided NAB documents pertaining to the Sharif family’s financial record when she appeared in front of the NAB investigative officer in August this year.
Once the hearing had ended the Ex-PM, his daughter and other senior leaders went for another meeting together at Punjab house to discuss their political strategy in light of the court proceedings. They had a similar meeting during the last court hearing as well. Minister of State for Water and Power, Abid Sher Ali said that the Sharif family is up against a cohort of liars.” We are presenting ourselves in the court out of sheer respect for the courts. Those who adopt drastic measures fall drastically too,” said the feisty and outspoken minister from Faisalabad. He added that nothing will be proven against Nawaz Sharif.
Earlier, Federal Minister for Railways, Khawaja Saad Rafique said that the judiciary and the establishment must work together to strengthen democracy as the country cannot afford any gimmickries in politics.
Read more: Nawaz Sharif appears in accountability court
As the evidence mounts up against the Sharif family by the day, it would be interesting to see how the Sharif family and the PML-N will come out of this major crisis. Will the PML-N run the risk of compromise on preparing for the elections by focusing entirely on the Sharif family’s defense? Can proceedings be disrupted or conviction be averted? The answers will determine the future political landscape in the country.