PML-N prepares for future ahead of verdict in Sharif case

Islamabad: The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has prepared its next political move ahead of announcement of verdicts in two National Accountability Bureau (NAB) references against former premier Nawaz Sharif on Monday (December 24). Sharif is expected to hear the verdict to be announced by Judge Arshad Malik in the courtroom while his party’s members of the National Assembly and workers are instructed to move to the court in Islamabad. In an expected power show to be staged by PML-N, other senior leaders of the party would join the elder Sharif. Besides, PMLN’s Tariq Fazal Chaudhary and Anjum Aqeel are given responsibilities of coordinating with local leaders and municipal representatives for motorcade and expression of unity amongst their leaders. Other leaders including Chaudhary Tanvir and Malik Ibrar would display their political force from Rawalpindi alongside their supporters. The accountability court had reserved the verdict in the Al Azizia and Flagship cases on December 19. The accountability court in Islamabad is set to announce its verdict in the Al-Azizia and Flagship references filed against deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday. Accountability Judge Muhammad Arshad Malik will pronounce the verdict which he reserved on Dec 19 after both defence and prosecution sides completed their final arguments in the cases. While hearing the former premier’s plea for submission of some documents related to the Sharif family’s UK properties on Dec 11, the judge rejected the verbal request to defer pronouncement of the judgment for a couple of days. A total of 22 witnesses recorded their statements in the Al-Azizia reference, while 16 witnesses recorded their depositions in the Flagship reference. Mr Sharif opted not to present any defence in both cases. However, his lawyer Khawaja Haris presented a rebuttal to allegations levelled by the prosecution against his client. Over the course of the trial, the PML-N supreme leader defended the accusation of being real owner and beneficiary of the offshore properties, which he maintained belongs to his sons Hassan and Hussain Nawaz. He said the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), tasked to probe his wealth, had declared him as the real owner of Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, but he was not the owner nor was a he “benamidaar” of both the properties. He added that the NAB failed to present any evidence to prove that he owned both the businesses. The Supreme Court extended the deadline for conclusion of both the references for the eight times earlier this month with a caution that if the trial court didn’t wrap up proceedings and announce its verdict by Dec 24, it would have to come up with a satisfactory explanation. Mr Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar were released from jail after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended their prison terms. The former premier, his daughter and her spouse were convicted by an accountability court in the Avenfield reference, one of the three references filed against members of the Sharif family, on July 6. He was awarded 10 years in prison, while his daughter Maryam and her spouse Capt Safdar were handed seven years’ and one year’s prison terms, respectively. The former premier was arrested on July 13 along with his daughter Maryam when the duo returned to the country from London. Sharif along with his sons-Hussain and Hassan – had been named in three references filed by the anti-graft watchdog, while his daughter and son-in-law were nominated in a reference with regard to the Sharif family’s London-based Avenfield properties. The references were filed in compliance with the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict last year.