Nawaz Sharif's indictment deferred till Oct 19
Islamabad, Oct 13: After the PML-N lawyers and supporters tried to barge into the courtroom, an anti-corruption court on Friday postponed the indictment of Pakistan's ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law in the Panama Papers case till October 19.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had registered three cases of corruption and money laundering against 67- year-old Sharif, his family members and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the Islamabad Accountability Court.
The cases were registered weeks after the Supreme Court disqualified Sharif as prime minister on July 28 in the Panama Papers scandal. As the court was about to begin the proceedings, lawyers associated with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) forced their way inside the courtroom.
The PML-N supporters also tried to enter the courtroom, resulting in clashes with police. The lawyers started protesting in the courtroom of Judge Muhammad Bashir against security arrangements which had "restricted their movement in the court premises".
They threatened to hold up the hearing until action was taken against the police officers that had allegedly manhandled them outside the court. Some lawyers also scuffled with the NAB's prosecution team which was there to argue the case. The law enforcers also accused the lawyers of manhandling them. As a result of the ruckus, Judge Bashir left the courtroom and later announced the postponement of the hearing till October 19.
The decision came shortly after deposed Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar appeared in court for hearing of the graft cases. Sharif again failed to appear before the judge as he was in London with his ailing wife Kulsoom, who is suffering from throat cancer and has undergone three surgeries so far.
A senior PML-N leader said Sharif had nominated a representative to appear before the court to face the indictment and deny the charges. Maryam, while interacting with reporters, expressed concern over the unnecessary hurdles created for lawyers and asked the interior ministry to probe the incident. "I don't know who created the problems for the lawyers. It should have been avoided," she said. TV footages showed that Maryam and Safdar were present inside the court when lawyers created ruckus.
They had also attended the previous hearing. During the hearing on October 9, the court had decided to separate the trial of Sharif's sons - Hussain and Hassan - from Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law. It had also ordered to start the process of declaring Sharif's sons proclaimed offender for failing to appear before the court.
The anti-graft body NAB had frozen the bank accounts and seized properties of Sharif and his family members to put pressure on them to appear before the court. Sharif had failed to appear on Monday before the court as he was in London with Kulsoom. The court had set October 13 as the date of his indictment. Sharif's family has alleged that the cases are politically motivated. He may be jailed after the indictment.
He had to step down as prime minister and president of the PML-N party after being disqualified by the Supreme Court. PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rashid said Sharif may return on next hearing but it depends on the condition of his wife. NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Chaudhry Khaliquz Zaman said Sharif could not be indicted as long as he did not appear before the court.
"Under the law a suspect cannot be charged in absentia," he said. Sharif was re-elected as the president of the PML-N on October 3 and immediately demanded that those who disqualified him should respect the people's mandate.