Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif appeared before a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) court on Tuesday in connection with the three corruption references, DawnNews reported.
The proceedings lasted for only a few minutes after the former premier was allowed to leave. Sharif reportedly informed the NAB court that his wife was not well and he needed to attend to her, following which Sharif was granted permission to leave.
The NAB court then adjourned for 10 minutes before continuing with the normal case proceedings.
The court has summoned Sharif again on October 2 for formally indicting him in the three separate references.
The court also issued bailable arrest warrants for Sharif’s children Hassan, Hussain, and Maryam, and for son-in-law Captain Safdar. The court directed them to submit surety bonds worth Rs 1 million each to secure bail.
NAB’s legal team also requested the court to order the interior ministry to place Sharif’s name on the exit control list.
A number of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders, including federal ministers, accompanied the former prime minister to his first appearance before the accountability court.
The court had summoned Sharif, who arrived Monday morning from London, after his failure to appear at an earlier hearing on Sept 19.
The court had also summoned Sharif’s sons — Hussain and Hassan — but they are not appearing today as they are still in London tending to their mother, who is undergoing cancer treatment.
During the court appearance, some PMN-L followers started chanting slogans in Sharif’s support inside the courtroom, annoying the judge Mohammad Bashir, who then asked the former premier to leave as his lawyers were there to represent him.
Sharif has now returned to Punjab House in the federal capital, where he is expected to chair a meeting of senior PML-N officials later in the day.
Extraordinary security arrangements
According to a report published by BBC Urdu, extraordinary security arrangements were made on the occasion and the general public was not allowed even within a kilometre radius area near the judicial complex.
Security was so tight that the NAB prosecutors following the case were also not allowed inside the courtroom.
The incumbent government probably didn’t trust anyone with the security arrangements, as instead of Islamabad police chief the state minister for interior, Talal Chaudhry, was supervising the security.
In addition to the extensive on-ground arrangements, two helicopters also kept circling the area throughout the time Nawaz Sharif was there.
Earlier, sources in the PML-N told Dawn that the counsel for Sharif’s sons would ask the court to exempt his clients from personal appearance since they were looking after Kulsoom Nawaz.
Sharif’s political secretary Asif Kirmani told reporters outside Punjab House that the former prime minister would hold a press conference today (Tuesday) after appearing before the NAB court.
On Monday, the former prime minister was received by a number of party leaders, including National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq and cabinet ministers, at the airport and was whisked to Punjab House amid tight security.
Kirmani said that the former PM held a number of informal meetings and consulted senior party leaders, as well as members of his legal team, to devise strategies to deal with the legal and political challenges facing the party.
Ex-PM confers with PML-N leaders
The most significant development of Monday was Sharif’s meeting with the former interior minister and estranged PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. The latter spent a considerable amount of time at Punjab House after holding a one-on-one meeting with the former prime minister.
Chaudhry Nisar has been openly criticising PML-N’s strategy in dealing with the issues related to the military and judiciary and was critical of the party’s policy after the July 28 verdict of the apex court in the Panama Papers case.
A senior PML-N leader and party office-bearers told Dawn that the Nawaz-Nisar meeting materialised due to the efforts of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who is still in London and expected to return in the next few days.
The sources said that the former prime minister was not feeling comfortable due to a knee ailment, and was seen sitting in an unusual posture since he was unable to bend his legs.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also visited Punjab House on Monday evening and held consultations with his predecessor on issues related to governance.
Others who called on Sharif included PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq, Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi, Punjab Governor Rafiq Rajwana, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, ministers Zahid Hamid, Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Abdul Qadir Baloch, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Daniyal Aziz and Talal Chaudhry.
Speaking to reporters in London before leaving for Islamabad, the former prime minister had said that he had come to the UK only to inquire after the health of his wife and had no plans to stay for a long time.
The Sharif family had earlier opted to boycott court proceedings. However, the sources said they changed their mind and decided to appear before the courts on the advice of a number of senior party leaders, including Shahbaz Sharif, and their lawyers.
Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir had earlier summoned Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, sons Hussain and Hassan Nawaz and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar on Sept 19 in connection with three corruption references filed by NAB under Supreme Court orders.
Though Mr Sharif and his children have publicly expressed concerns over the SC judgement and had filed review petitions before the same bench, the petitions were all dismissed on Sept 15.
NAB had filed three references against the Sharif family in connection with the London properties, the establishment of 16 companies, including Flagship Investment Ltd in the UK and Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment in Jeddah.
The former premier and his sons have been named in all three references, while Maryam and Capt Safdar have only been named in the Avenfield reference.