ISLAMABAD: The accountability court hearing corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family has summoned the former head of the Panama case joint investigation team (JIT), Wajid Zia, on February 22.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which filed three corruption references against the Sharifs in September last year, had pleaded the court to summon Zia, an additional director in the Federal Investigation Agency.
The references pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills, Flagship Investment Ltd and Avenfield properties in London. Nawaz is accused in all three cases whereas his daughter Maryam and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar are accused in the Avenfield reference only.
At the next hearing on Feb 22, two UK-based witnesses will record their statements via video-link from the Pakistan High Commission in London in the supplementary Avenfield reference filed last month. The Islamabad High Court ruled recently that the suspects' counsels should also be present at the Pakistani embassy when the statements are recorded.
NAB has since also filed supplementary references in the other two cases.
The NAB prosecutor had pleaded before the court that the original JIT record needs to be submitted when the new witnesses will record their statements.
Giving its order on NAB's request today, Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir issued a notice to Zia directing him to appear on Thursday along with the original JIT report .
Moreover, the court ordered the authorities to ensure the attendance of all three suspects at the next hearing.
Zia has already appeared before the same court in the corruption trial against Nawaz's close aide and former finance minister Senator Ishaq Dar. The original JIT report has been submitted in that case as well.
Exemption denied :
At the last hearing of the case on Feb 15, the court had rejected the accused's request to be exempted from appearance from February 19 to March 5 as the family has to travel to London to visit Nawaz's ailing wife, Kulsoom.
Nawaz's counsel had pleaded the court to allow his client to travel to London. However, NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Muzaffar Abbasi opposed the plea citing the nearing of the March deadline by the Supreme Court to wrap up the trial.
On Feb 14, NAB had requested the Ministry of Interior to place Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar's names on the Exit Control List (ECL), observing that the accused have not joined NAB's investigations despite summons and could flee the country to escape legal process.
Moreover, it requested for placement of Nawaz's sons, Hussain and Hasan, on the ECP as well so they can be arrested on their return to Pakistan and be made a part of the investigation.
However, the ministry is yet to follow through on the request, as per media reports.
The Supreme Court had disqualified Nawaz as premier on July 28 last year after hearing the Panama Papers case. The apex court had also directed NAB to file three corruption references against Nawaz and family, and one against Dar.
The court had also appointed a monitoring judge, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, to oversee the trial and given the accountability court six months, from the filing of the references, to wrap up the proceedings. APP/AFP