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NAB court rejects petition to transfer Al-Azizia reference

NAB court rejects petition to transfer Al-Azizia reference

ISLAMABAD: The accountability court hearing corruption cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family on Thursday rejected a petition to transfer the Al-Azizia corruption reference to another judge.

As the hearing resumed, Nawaz’s lawyer Khawaja Haris and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi appeared in the court. The prosecution asked for more time to present a copy of the apex court’s order for an extension in wrapping up the corruption references against Nawaz Sharif and former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

The Supreme Court has already given the accountability judge six more weeks to conclude the remaining cases.

After a brief adjournment, the NAB prosecutor said that the Supreme Court’s extension order was yet to be received. To this, the judge asked what the apex court’s order entailed. Abbasi responded that a six-week extension had been granted to the anti-graft body to wrap up the corruption references. The judge remarked that it was yet to be seen what the Supreme Court order actually is.

Khawaja Haris then requested the court to issue an order on his plea to transfer the remaining cases to another judge. Judge Bashir responded by saying that he did not have the mandate to transfer the reference after indictments. The defence then requested for the hearing to be adjourned till Tuesday so it could contact the relevant forum – Islamabad High Court.

The NAB prosecutor, however, argued that Judge Bashir should hear the case as he had indicted the accused and the hearing had been presided over by him since day one. “It would be better if you [Judge Bashir] hear this reference,” Abbasi remarked. “We should see justice getting served too,” said Nawaz’s lawyer, adding that the matter had been raised in the Supreme Court as well to bring it to the apex court’s attention.

Remarking that only the high court had the mandate to transfer the case, Judge Bashir rejected the transfer petition. The hearing was then adjourned till July 17.

Last week, the court sentenced Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (r) Safdar to jail in the Avenfield properties reference. The remaining cases pertain to Al-Azizia Steel Mills and the Hill Metal Establishment, and offshore companies including Flagship Investment Limited.

Nawaz was sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison and slapped a £8 million fine (Rs 1.3 billion) while Maryam was sentenced to eight years with a £2 million fine (Rs 335 million). Maryam’s husband, Capt (r) Safdar, was sentenced to one year in prison.