Pakistan’s deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday appeared before an anti-corruption court hearing graft cases against him, in his first court appearance after getting bail last month in a major corruption case that wrecked his political career.
Sharif appeared before the accountability court after Judge Muhammad Arshad Malik on Monday warned that he may cancel his surety bond and issue arrest warrants if the former premier failed to appear before the bench.
After a brief hearing, the court adjourned hearing of Al-Azizia and Hill Metal corruption case against Sharif till Wednesday, Radio Pakistan reported.
On the orders of the Supreme Court, the National Accountability Bureau had filed three corruption cases against the 68-year-old three-time former prime minister.
A top Pakistani court last month suspended the jail sentences of Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law in the Avenfield corruption case, one of the three corruption cases. The trio were released from a jail following the court order.
Apart from the Avenfield case, the Sharifs face jail terms if they are convicted in two more corruption cases related to the Al-Azizia and the Flagship Investment cases.
The cases against the family stemmed from the Panama Papers case in April 2016.
The Flagship Investment Ltd case is based on information the NAB had obtained from the report filed by the Joint Investigation Team constituted by the Supreme Court to probe money laundering allegations against Sharif and his family.
The court had summoned Panamagate joint investigation team head and prosecution’s star witness Wajid Zia to record his statement on Monday. However, Zia’s statement could not be recorded as the former premier and his counsel did not appear for the hearing.
Expressing anger over their absence, Judge Malik on Monday remarked, “A suspect cannot skip a hearing on his own will.”
The judge was further irked when defence counsel Khawaja Haris requested, through his associate Munawwar Iqbal Duggal, for a two-day adjournment of Flagship, Al Aziziya and Hill Metal Establishment case hearings, owing to health issues.
When the judge inquired about Sharif’s absence, Duggal said that the accused was supposed to appear and sought time to find out why the former prime minister did not turn up.
“Neither the suspect nor the counsel are present. Am I supposed to wait all day?” Judge Malik asked. “I adjourned hearings of other cases to hear yours, please tell me what you all want,” he further said.
He added, “I will write down an order and then you all keep challenging it.”
To this, the deputy counsel said he is trying to contact Sharif and asked for a few minutes to update the court.
Later Duggal told the court that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo did not appear owing to “genuine confusion”.
Sharif and his sons, Hussain and Hasan, are accused in all three corruption cases whereas his daughter Maryam and her husband Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar were accused in the Avenfield case only.
The two brothers, based in London, have been declared as proclaimed offenders by the court.