Pakistan’s ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members on Wednesday appeared before an anti-graft court as trial resumed into the corruption cases filed against them in the high-profile Panama Papers scandal. Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired captain Muhammad Safdar arrived at the court amidst heavy security arrangements made to deal with any untoward incident.
Sharif and his family members were welcomed by a number of senior leaders of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML–N) party at the court. Judge Muhammad Bashir started the proceeding which was still going on. The court had last week accepted 67-year-old Sharif’s application for exemption from court hearings till November 27. However, Sharif appeared before the court today due to a change in his plans.
Three cases were registered by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against Sharif and his family in the Accountability Court Islamabad. The accountability court on November 8 rejected a plea by Sharif to club all three cases together. Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Harris had argued that all three cases dealt with assets beyond means and allegations and most of the witnesses were same, therefore the references should be taken as one.
Last week, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar also dismissed Sharif’s in-chamber appeal to merge three cases filed by the NAB in the Panama Papers scandal. Sharif was indicted in all three cases while his daughter Maryam and her husband Safdar, co-accused with Sharif in only one case, were also indicted last month. Sharif’s sons Hassan and Hussian are also co-accused in all three cases but have so far failed to appear in the court despite repeated summons, prompting the court to separate their case and initiate a process to declare them proclaimed offenders.
A five-member bench of the Supreme Court on July 28 had disqualified Sharif over his undeclared income. The apex court also directed the NAB to file cases against him, and his children in the accountability court and directed the trial court to decide the cases within six months. The NAB had filed three cases on September 8 against Sharif and his family, and another case against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. The three cases against the Sharifs are related to the Flagship Investment Ltd, the Avenfield (London) properties and Jeddah-based Al-Azizia Company and Hill Metal Establishment.
The political future of Sharif, who leads the country’s most powerful political family and the PML-N party, has been hanging in balance since his disqualification. If convicted, Sharif could be jailed. Sharif’s family alleges that the cases are politically motivated.