Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – An accountability court on Tuesday ordered former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to hire new legal counsel till June 19 as Khawaja Harris distanced himself from corruption cases owing to ‘dictation’ from the Supreme Court.

Harris on Monday recused himself from the cases pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd, and Avenfield properties of London filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against members of Sharif family.

Judge Mohammad Bashir resumed hearing of the cases as Nawaz Sharif reached the accountability court for trial without any counsel.

During the hearing, the judge asked Nawaz if he wanted to hire new lawyer or continue with Haris, adding that the withdrawal request has not been accepted so far.

Nawaz replied that it was not easy to take the decision in this regard. Later, the court directed the former premier to arrange new lawyer in a week and adjourned the hearing.

The three-time prime minister then lamented that his counsel had informed the court of his inability to attend court on Saturdays and Sundays.

On Monday, Judge Mohammad Bashir had also asked the former prime minister to hire a new lawyer till Tuesday after Harris withdrew from the cases representation; however, the latter expressed reservations on it saying it would not be possible to arrange the counsel in a short time.

During the hearing of Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference, Harris said that he has taken the decision of not representing Nawaz in the cases as the Supreme Court did not accept his stance, he was referring to orders passed by the apex court on Sunday.

The corruption references, filed against the Sharifs, pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd, and Avenfield properties of London.

Announcing his decision to withdraw his legal services to Nawaz, Haris said the apex court had dictated the trial court to conclude the cases within a month. He has submitted the plea to withdrawn his wakalatnama.

In a written note to the apex court, Haris said that the top court had not accepted his viewpoint on the three references. “As a professional lawyer, I think the concluding arguments for all of the three references could be presented together,” he maintained.

The lawyer further remarked that he was dictated to work beyond court hours and during off days – Saturday and Sunday.

Harris, who represented Nawaz for nine months in the cases, said that he could not work under such circumstances.

Withdrawing the legal services may cause a delay in the cases till the former premier hires a new counsel to represent the case.

Harris was set to cross-examine the prosecution witness, Wajid Zia, head of the Panamgate joint investigation team (JIT), in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference today.

During the hearing, Judge Mohammad Bashir called Nawaz to the rostrum and asked about his new counsel, to which, the three-time prime minister said: “I can tell you about it after consultation”.

The accountability judge has given one-day to Nawaz Sharif to decide on the matter. Following the abrupt development, the court has adjourned the case until Tuesday.

Supreme Court’s Orders

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Sunday ordered the accountability court to announce decision on all three corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam within a month.

A two-judge bench headed by the chief justice heard the petition seeking further extension for the conclusion of trails against Nawaz and his family with regard to corruption references.

During the hearing, the chief justice rejected Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris’ request for completing trial in six weeks, observing that final verdict against the former premier, his sons, daughter and son-in-law should be announced within a month.

The top court had disqualified former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Panamagate verdict in July 28, 2017, and was set a deadline of six months which ended in mid-March but was extended for two months after the judge requested the court.

Earlier, the trial court had submitted the second plea for a deadline extension, which was approved by the Supreme Court ordering both sides to finish the corruption cases by June 9.