Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar indicted in Avenfield House

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Trial to start from Oct 26, plead not guilty, Maryam says charges baseless,
unfounded, Nawaz’s indictment also in Flagship Investment and Azizia Mills

Nations special report

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court in Islamabad on Thursday indicted disqualified and ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and her husband retired Captain Mohammad Safdar in connection with a reference pertaining to the Avenfield flats filed against them by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The very expensive property sits at Park Lane, central London.

Luxurious and expensive Avenfield House in Park Lane, Central London

All three accused pleaded not guilty to the charges. After their indictment, Maryam, Safdar and Nawaz Sharif’s pleader read out the following statement: “I do not plead guilty. Charges are not only groundless, baseless and unfounded but also frivolous, and on top of that we are being denied our right to fair trial. The charges are being framed on a report that is incomplete and controversial. It will go down in history as [a] mockery of justice and travesty of justice. Moreover, the charges are being framed without awaiting the detailed order of the Supreme Court in the review petitions.”

The court proceeded with the indictment of the trio after rejecting three applications filed by Sharif, Maryam and Safdar requesting suspension of the indictment.

The court indicted the Sharif family members in the London properties reference today even though Nawaz Sharif and lead defence counsel Khawaja Haris are both out of the country.

The indictment

Since Nawaz Sharif and his lead defence counsel are abroad, the court indicted the former prime minister through pleader Zafir Khan, while the charges against Maryam and Safdar were framed in person. Zafir Khan, pleaded not guilty on Sharif’s behalf and read out a statement from him in court.

Meanwhile, Maryam has been charged with being the beneficial owner of the London flats and Capt Safdar being her accomplice in acquiring the apartments. The accused were unsuccessful in showing the sources of income used to purchase the London flats, reads the indictment order.

The trial in Avenfield flats reference will start on October 26 and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s (SECP) joint registrar Sidra Mansoor will record her statement as the first witness in the case.

‘Accountability of accountability’

Maryam Nawaz while talking to reporters as she was leaving the accountability court said one day there would be accountability of the accountability process her family is going through. “Injustice and atrocities cannot continue together,” she said.

Maryam said her party is still united despite the differences of opinion.  She said the government is an institution which should be respected. “Each institution should do its job.”

Applications rejected

After initially reserving its verdict, the court rejected an application filed by Capt Safdar’s counsel Amjad Pervez seeking an adjournment of the indictment proceedings.

The application submitted today argued that Volume X of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report, filed on the directions of the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case, has not been provided to the defendant by the apex court.

It further argued that the statements given by three witnesses to the JIT had not been made public, hence the indictment of Maryam and Safdar should be postponed.

The NAB prosecution argued that Volume X of the JIT report had nothing to do with the indictment and urged the court to indict the accused today.

Meanwhile, the second lawyer from Nawaz Sharif’s legal team, Ayesha Hamid, filed an application in the accountability court seeking a delay in her client’s indictment.

The application urged the court to delay the indictment until the Supreme Court decides a petition filed by Sharif against the filing of multiple corruption references against him by NAB. The court rejected this application as well.

A third application filed by Nawaz Sharif’s counsel, seeking a merger of the three references filed against him, was also rejected.

Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir was set to indict Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Capt Safdar on Oct 13. However, after a violent clash between the lawyers and police for not permitting the former into the premises of the Federal Judicial Complex (FJC), the court deferred the indictment until today.

On Oct 9, Ahmed, the counsel of Sharif and his daughter, had filed applications seeking an exemption from personal attendance for Sharif and another seeking a 15-day adjournment.

He told the court that the former premier was in London to tend to his ailing wife who was undergoing treatment for lymphoma. He said she was in critical condition and had not recovered despite a third surgery.

The court had exempted Sharif from appearing on October 9, but fixed Oct 13 for his indictment.

The accountability court has also issued directives for Thursday’s hearing. The court had asked for limited presence in the court premises to avoid a situation that emerged in the previous hearing where the lawyers associated with the PML-N protested in the courtroom.

The court directed the prosecution and defence teams, court reporters and the officials accompanying the suspects to keep the number of people inside the court minimum.

PML-N Lawyers Forum has already announced that they would not come to witness the indictment proceeding on Oct 19.

NAB references

A five-member bench of the Supreme Court on July 28 had directed NAB to file references against Nawaz and his children in six weeks in the accountability court and directed the trial court to decide the references within six months.  The Supreme Court also assigned Justice Ijazul Ahsan a supervisory role to monitor the progress of the accountability court proceedings.

The former premier and his sons, Hassan and Hussain, have been named in all three NAB references, while Maryam and husband Safdar have been named only in the Avenfield reference.