Sharif set to skip court proceedings today

LAHORE: Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif will not appear before the accountability court in Islamabad on Friday (today) to face indictment in three graft cases since his wife’s condition is serious.

“Mian sahib is busy looking after his wife, Begum Kulsoom, in London. He may try to return to the country for the next court hearing,” Federal Minister for Climate Change Mushahidullah Khan told Dawn on Thursday.

In response to a question whether Mr Sharif would return after Begum Kul­soom’s chemotherapy was over, he said: “Chemo­therapy takes two-and-a-half months but I think Mian sahib will return before that.”

He said Mr Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and retired Capt Mohammad Safdar, however, will appear before the accountability court in Islamabad on Friday (today) to face indictment in the NAB references.

NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Chaudhry Khaliquz Zaman told Dawn that Mr Sharif could not be indicted till he appeared in court. “Under the law a suspect cannot be charged in absentia,” he said.

Begum Kulsoom, who is suffering from lymphoma, has undergone three surgeries so far.

On Thursday, Maryam left for Islamabad on a special plane to appear before the trial court, along with her husband, who has recently come under fire from several quarters, including his own party, for demanding that the government ban the Ahmadi community from government and military service.

On Oct 9, the accountability court in Islamabad observed that Mr Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Capt Safdar would be indicted on Oct 13 (today). It had also ordered NAB to initiate the process of declaring Mr Sharif’s sons — Hassan and Hussain — proclaimed offenders, for consistently skipping court proceedings in the graft references pertaining to the Park Lane flats and the establishment of offshore companies. NAB has given them 30 days (from Oct 11) to appear in court.

During her three-day stay in Lahore, Maryam did not visit her Jati Umra residence but stayed at her son-in-law’s home on The Mall. She did not meet party workers from NA-120, many of whom were expecting her to meet them and congratulate her for her mother’s victory in the by-election. Maryam had left for London within hours of the announcement of the election result.

“We were expecting Maryam bibi to call us at the Sharif’s Model Town residence to acknowledge our efforts in Begum Kulsoom’s victory but that did not happen,” a party office-bearer from NA-120 told Dawn.

He said a number of workers had contacted MPAs Bilal Yasin and Majid Zahoor from the constituency and conveyed their sentiments to them in this regard.

“Since none of her family members were living at Jati Umra, Maryam bibi decided to stay at her son-in-law’s residence,” MPA Hina Pervaiz Butt, who ran Begum Kulsoom’s campaign alongside Maryam, told Dawn.

She said because Mr Sharif had addressed a gathering of PML-N’s workers in NA-120 at Alhamra before leaving for London, a separate meeting was not required. “Maryam bibi is concerned about her mother’s health. She is here only to face the NAB references. She may leave for London to see her mother after appearing before the court on Friday (today),” she said.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Begum Mehnaz Rafi has questioned why Maryam had been given a government-owned plane to use for personal reasons.

“Under what legal capacity was the government-owned plane used to transport her (Maryam) from Islamabad to Lahore. Why are the government’s resources being used for a suspect in graft references? The court must take notice of this,” Ms Rafi demanded.

Ms Butt clarified that Maryam Nawaz was not using a government-owned plane to travel to Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2017

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