NAB references: My basic rights are being usurped, complains Sharif

Islamabad: Hours after deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s counsel recused himself from corruption references being heard by the accountability court, the former PM complained on Monday that his basic human rights were being usurped by the court.

“My basic human rights are being usurped. I’ve attended over 100 hearings and still not being allowed to attend my ailing wife in London,” he said while addressing a news conference in Lahore.

The former president of his own faction of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) said that Khawaja Haris, his counsel in the references has recused himself from the cases over undue pressure and workload.

No lawyer would take up a case where he is not even allowed time to prepare for the case, he added.

Khawaja Haris and his team walked out of the case on Monday, saying they could not perform under pressure due to the Supreme Court’s order to the accountability court to conclude the trials within one month.

“Haven’t they heard that Justice rushed is justice crushed … I have been denied the right to defend myself. Legal requirements are important or verdict before July 25 elections?” he questioned.

Sharif said several references were filed on the same allegation and now efforts are afoot to announce a combined verdict on all three references.

The statement came after the accountability court gave the former premier only a day’s time to find a new counsel after Haris withdrew his power of attorney from the case earlier today.

The lawyer and his team walked out of the case, stating that they cannot perform under such pressure. Haris said the Supreme Court had instructed the accountability court to wrap up the proceedings in a month and to conduct hearings on Saturdays.

“The court can’t do justice to the case under this pressure,” Haris maintained. He expressed his displeasure at the ‘miscarriage of justice’ which the SC promised earlier would not be the outcome.

“The undersigned feels seriously constricted in his ability as a lawyer to do justice to the briefs of his client,” Haris stated in the withdrawal application, describing “the time constraint imposed by the hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan [as] being unrealistic”.

He said he even submitted before the SC’s bench on June 10 that the order passed by it had left no respite for the process to be completed within the period so stipulated.

“In this context the undersigned is convinced that he would not be able to discharge his professional duties towards his client to the best of his abilities,” he stated.

On June 10, the apex court had granted another four weeks to the accountability court to wrap up the proceedings. Haris and his legal team had submitted multiple pleas on behalf of the former prime minister asking for the simultaneous recording of statements from head of the investigation team Wajid Zia. However, all pleas to club the references were rejected and dismissed.

On June 12, the hearing is fixed for final arguments by the defence counsel. Since Haris has withdrawn his warrant of attorney, it would be interesting to see if Amjad Pervaiz, the counsel for Maryam Nawaz and Captain (retd) Safdar, continues or withdraws his warrant of attorney as well.

The couple is only standing trial in the Avenfield Apartments reference wherein the NAB prosecutor has already concluded his arguments and now it’s the defence counsel’s turn to present final arguments in the reference.

Sharif and his sons, Hussain and Hassan, have been named in all three references – Avenfield, Al-Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship and other companies’ references.

My fundamental rights are being violated. When they couldn’t find corruption of a single penny against me, they created Iqama an excuse and ousted me from the PM House. Making three references for assets beyond income is also unprecedented. With persistence we confronted all the challenges. The court had decided that the verdict for the references will be announced at the same time. All our pleas were dismissed.

By changing stances, our applications were stopped from proceedings. I don’t know what is important, legal requirements are important or the decision before the elections or whether the rights of public is important or the decision before elections. No new lawyer is ready to take up the case immediately due to the conditions. I was deprived of the right of defence.

A new lawyer needs time to review the case. We have sought time from the SC for appointing a new lawyer. The dictator who brought amendments, pushed Pakistan into terrorism is being given importance. Announcing the verdict before the 25 July is akin to disgracing institutions.

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