Avenfield reference: Nawaz terms SC's Panama verdict 'inappropriate', 'unnecessary'

Avenfield reference: Nawaz terms SC's Panama verdict 'inappropriate', 'unnecessary'

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif termed the Supreme Court's July 28 verdict, which led to his disqualification, as "inappropriate" and "unnecessary" while recording his statement in the Avenfield reference before the accountability court on Monday.

The Avenfield reference, pertaining to the Sharif family's London properties, is among three filed against Sharif family by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) last year on the Supreme Court's directives.

Nawaz’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar, who will also record their statements today, are currently appearing before the court of accountability judge Muhammad Bashir.

"The SC's verdict affected my right to a fair trial," Nawaz remarked. 

Speaking about the Joint Investigation Team, which was formed by the Supreme Court to probe assets of Sharif family, Nawaz remarked that he had reservations over the members of the investigation team, adding that he had recorded his reservations as per Article 10 of the Constitution (Right to Fair Trial).

The JIT comprised six members, including its head Federal Investigation Agency Additional Director Wajid Zia, Amer Aziz of the State Bank of Pakistan, SECP Executive Director Communication Bilal Rasool, Irfan Naeem Mangi of National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Brigadier (retd) Nauman Saeed of the Inter-Services Intelligence and Brigadier Kamran Khurshid from the Military Intelligence.

Nawaz raised objections over all six members of the JIT, adding that some of them were affiliated with different political parties.

On Bilal Rasool, the former premier shared that he is the nephew of former Governor Punjab Mian Azhar. Nawaz further said that Azhar's son Hamid Azhar was photographed with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairperson Imran Khan on August 24, 2017. “The picture was taken at Imran's house in Bani Gala.”

He also said that Rasool has criticised the government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the past and that his wife is a fervent supporter of PTI.  

With regard to Zia, Nawaz said that the JIT head employed the services of his cousins for the probe. During the JIT investigation, a controversy was stirred after Zia had hired the services of his cousin’s British law firm to investigate assets of the Sharif family.

The PML-N Quaid said that Zia’s biases in the investigation have been evident from the start. 

Nawaz also remarked that it was inappropriate to include officers from MI and ISI in the JIT, adding that the JIT report was affected by the current strained civilian-military relations. 

At the last hearing on Friday, the testimonies of the Sharif family could not be recorded as the defense had raised objections to the questions sent by the accountability court and sought more time to ponder over them. 

The prosecution objected to the plea, saying the defence just wants to waste time.

However, Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir approved the plea but observed that the recording of statements will not be delayed further than Monday (today). 

Moreover, the court ruled that Panama case JIT head Wajid Zia, whose cross-examination in the Al Azizia reference was to resume on Monday, should now appear in court on Tuesday.

127 questions:

An accountability court has sought responses to 127 questions from Nawaz Sharif in the Avenfield Properties reference, sources informed.

The questionnaire, which was handed over to the accused on May 17 and a copy of which was obtained by Geo News, inquires Nawaz about the statements of each witness presented by his counsel. 

The document also includes questions as to why the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that probed the Panama Leaks case was formed, all the evidence presented to the court, and letters from other countries.

Included in the questionnaire are queries about the establishment of Gulf Steel Mills and the debts and liabilities of the entity. The court has sent for a response to how Nawaz's children became the director and shareholder of the Hudaibiya Paper Mills.

The document also inquires about the television interviews of Hassan and Hussain Nawaz, statements of witnesses Robert Radley and Akhtar Riaz Raja, and JIT Head Wajid Zia.  

The corruption cases:

The corruption references, filed against the Sharifs, pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd, and Avenfield properties of London.

NAB had earlier filed interim references in all three cases and later added supplementary references to them with new evidence and witnesses.

Nawaz and sons Hussain and Hasan are accused in all three references whereas his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Safdar are accused in the Avenfield reference only.

The court originally had a deadline of six months which ended in mid-March but was extended for two months after the judge requested the apex court.

Later, on May 9, the trial court's second plea for a deadline extension was approved by the Supreme Court which gave a month to both sides to finish the corruption cases.