Nawaz Sharif’s petition to transfer the remaining two corruption cases against him to another accountability court was dismissed today, media reports said on Thursday, in another blow to the embattled former Pakistan prime minister on the eve of his return to the country and possible arrest.
Sharif, who is currently in London to tend to his ailing wife Kulsoom, is expected to return to Pakistan on Friday, days after being sentenced to 11 years in prison by an anti-corruption court in the Avenfield properties case, one of the three corruption cases against him following the Panama Papers scandal.
Judge Muhammad Bashir of the Islamabad Accountability Court stated that after passing the judgment and framing charges on members of the Sharif family, he can not recuse himself from the case, Geo TV reported. To transfer the case to another court, relevant high court authorities need to be approached, and if the case is to be transferred across provinces, then the Supreme Court needs to be consulted with, the channel quoted the judge as saying.
The Sharif family is now facing two more corruption cases in the accountability court — Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments — in which they are accused of money laundering, tax evasion and hiding offshore assets, The News reported. Apart from 68-year-old Sharif, the accountability court sentenced his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Capt (retired) Safdar to jail in the Avenfield properties case. The Sharifs owned four apartments in the posh Mayfair area in London. Sharif and Maryam would be arrested the moment they land in Pakistan, officials have said.
During Thursday’s hearing, Khawaja Haris, Sharif’s counsel, stated that Judge Bashir had already made public his opinion on the Joint Investigation Team’s report and on the Gulf Steel Mills. Haris clarified that for the purpose of upholding justice, the transfer was requested as Judge Bashir’s opinions are now in the open. The judge remarked that he would include all of Haris’ objections in the order, to which the defence counsel requested an adjournment of the hearing till July 16 so that they may contact relevant higher authorities.
Sharif’s counsel maintained that there are similarities in the cases, and since Judge Bashir’s viewpoint on those points is already in the open, a request for a new judge was made.
The National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) prosecutor was of the opinion that since Judge Bashir has heard all sides of the case, he should continue the hearings. The hearing was then adjourned till July 17, the report said.