ISLAMABAD: The accountability court hearing corruption cases against the Sharif family approved the bail of Maryam Nawaz and her husband MNA Capt (retd) Safdar after they appeared in court.
Judge Mohammad Bashir also approved the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) plea to declare Hasan and Hussain Nawaz proclaimed offenders and separated their proceedings in the three references filed against them. Their non-bailable arrest warrants, issued at the last hearing on October 2, remain in effect.
The court has set October 13 as the next date of hearing at which Nawaz Sharif — regardless of his presence —, Maryam and Safdar will be indicted.
The accountability court is hearing a total of three corruption cases against the Sharif family filed by NAB in light of the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Panama Papers case.
As the hearing began, Maryam appeared in court amid tight security while Safdar was late to the proceedings as he was being brought to court by NAB officials following his arrest late Sunday night.
The court approved Maryam and Safdar’s bail and ordered them to submit surety bonds worth Rs5 million each. Safdar was also directed to take the court’s permission before leaving the country from now on.
The judge also provided a copy of the reference — spread over 53 volumes — to Maryam and Safdar.
The court approved Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Harris’s request to approve his client’s exemption from appearance today.
At present, Nawas is in London with his wife who is undergoing medical treatment. In this regard, Harris also submitted Kulsoom’s medical report in court.
NAB officials also submitted in court a plea to declare Hasan and Hussain Nawaz proclaimed offenders as they failed to show up in court even today, despite issuance of non-bailable arrest warrants.
Approving NAB’s plea, the judge separated the trial of Nawaz’s sons and also ordered the initiation of the process of declaring them proclaimed offenders.
The process will involve publication of notices in the newspapers directing the accused to appear in court. Failure to do so will result in seizure of property and issuance of further warrants.
The court also recorded the statements of three investigating officers of the NAB.
The court will indict Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar at the next hearing.
Speaking to the media after appearing before the court, Maryam said she “knows very well what her ‘crime’ is”.
She said further that those who appear in court are being arrested form the airport while absconders are running free and holding rallies.
“But we are not ones to be afraid of being arrested,” she added.
“Judges will have to answer as questions are raised when a case over Panama [Papers] ended up on the Iqama [foreign work permit which led to Nawaz’s disqualification],” remarked Maryam.
She further said that this process will soon end as well.
Answering a question regarding her brothers’ appearance, she said they will make their own decision, adding that they reside abroad and thus local laws do not apply to them.
Meanwhile, answering the media’ queries on his way to the court, Safdar said his military training helped him sleep easily at night.
In response to another question, he said, “I have not hijacked a plane [that I should be scared of legal proceedings]”.
High-profile event: Around 1,000 police and Frontier Constabulary personnel have been deployed for securing the judicial complex where the hearing will take place.
State Interior Minister Talal Chaudhry, Health Minister Saira Afzal Tarar, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, CADD Minister Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, IT Minister Anusha Rehman, Privatisation Minister Daniyal Aziz, Senator Asif Kirmani and other senior PML-N officials were present in and outside the court.
Safdar’s arrest: Maryam and her husband returned to Islamabad from London late Sunday night. Following their arrival, Safdar was arrested by NAB officials as the accountability court had issued non-bailable arrest warrants to ensure his presence in court.
A six-member NAB team waited outside Rawal Lounge of the airport for the arrest of Safdar, as the airport authorities stopped them from entering the lounge.
Maryam, after having left the airport, arrived at the residence of Chaudhry Muneer — her daughter’s father-in-law — in Islamabad’s Sector F-6.
Maryam and Safdar, along with other Sharif family members, are accused in the Avenfield properties case whereas Nawaz and his sons, Hussain and Hassan, are accused in two more references: offshore companies’ and Azizia Steel Mills’.
Nawaz has been appearing before the court since it began its proceedings. However, at present Nawaz is in London to spend time with his wife, Kulsoom, who is undergoing treatment for lymphoma.
It is unclear when the former premier will return. The court is yet to decide on his plea for exemption from appearance.
Earlier on Sunday, Maryam and Safdar left for Pakistan from London.
Speaking to media outside the Sharif family’s Avenfield residence before leaving for Heathrow airport, Maryam said the so-called accountability process under way for the last year-and-a-half has been exposed as the world is aware now that this [corruption cases] is not for justice but for revenge.
Responding to a question, she said her brothers Hussain and Hasan will present themselves before the court too, but did not specify a date for their appearance.
The NAB has in total filed three references against the Sharif family and one against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the accountability court, in light of the Supreme Court’s orders in the Panama Papers case verdict of July 28.
The anti-graft body was given six weeks, from the date of the apex court’s order, to file the reference in an accountability court while the accountability court was granted six months to wrap up the proceedings.
The references against the Sharif family pertain to the Azizia Steel Mills, their London properties and over dozen offshore companies.
NAB’s Rawalpindi branch prepared two references regarding the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, and the nearly dozen companies owned by the Sharif family.
Its Lahore branch prepared a reference on the Sharif family’s Avenfield apartments in London and another against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for owning assets beyond his known sources of income.
If convicted, the accused may face up to 14 years imprisonment and lifelong disqualification from holding public office including the freezing of bank accounts and assets.
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