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NAB court expresses anger over Nawaz’s absence in Flagship reference hearing

NAB court expresses anger over Nawaz’s absence in Flagship reference hearing

ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Monday requested the court to issue non-bailable arrest warrants for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif over his absence in Flagship Investments reference.

The reference was heard by Accountability Court II Judge Arshad Malik who had summoned Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head and prosecution witness Wajid Zia to record his statement. However, Zia’s statement could not be recorded as the former premier and his counsel Khawaja Haris did not appear for the hearing.

It was reported that Nawaz’s counsel failed to appear in the court due to his illness over which, NAB judge said it’s intolerable that the accused attend hearings as per his own will.

Judge Malik remarked, “A suspect cannot skip a hearing on his own will.”

NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar said, “Nawaz did not file a request for exemption from the hearing,” further requesting the court to record statements of the witnesses in the presence of the assistant lawyer.

Meanwhile, the judge warned of issuing arrest warrants against Nawaz if he continues to skip the court hearings.

The court then went on a brief break and once the hearing resumed, the judge expressed anger at the deputy counsel as Nawaz and Haris had still not appeared.

“Neither the suspect nor the counsel is present in the court. Am I supposed to wait all day?” Judge Malik asked. “I adjourned hearings of other cases to hear yours, please tell me what you all want,” he further said.

Judge Malik added, “I will write down an order and then you all keep challenging it.”

To this, the deputy counsel said he is trying to contact Nawaz and asked for a few minutes to update the court.

The deputy counsel then informed the court, “Nawaz did not appear for the hearing as there was a misunderstanding owing to different dates fixed for hearings of Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment references.”

“If the court allows, Nawaz can appear in the next two to three hours,” he added.

The court then adjourned the hearing of the case till October 4.

On September 28, the accountability court had adjourned the hearing of Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family till Tuesday. Judge Arshad Malik heard the case.

As the hearing began, Nawaz’s counsel, Khawaja Haris, submitted a request for the former premier’s exemption from appearing for the hearing. The request was accepted by the court after which NAB investigation officer Mehboob Alam recorded his statement.

Following this, the court had summoned Mehboob Alam for cross-examination on October 2 and adjourned the hearing of the case.

NAB had presented 22 witnesses, including operation managers of various banks and Panamagate JIT head Wajid Zia, in the case till date.

Earlier, in 2017, the trial against the Sharif family commenced and on July 6, after four extensions in the original six-month deadline to conclude all three cases, the court announced its verdict in the Avenfield reference.

Nawaz and his sons, Hussain and Hasan, are accused in all three references whereas Maryam and Safdar were accused in the Avenfield reference only.

The two brothers, based abroad, have been absconding since the proceedings began last year and were declared proclaimed offenders by the court.