ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani anti-corruption court on Tuesday decided to indict Nawaz Sharif on October 2 after the embattled ousted prime minister for the first time appeared before it to face graft charges against him in the Panama Papers scandal.
The Accountability 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.
Sharif, 67, stepped down after the Supreme Court disqualified him on July 28 from continuing in his office for dishonesty and ruled that corruption cases be filed against him and his children.
Sharif appeared before the accountability court located in the judicial complex here, a day after he returned from London where he was with his ailing wife.
During the brief hearing, Sharif informed the Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir that his wife was unwell and he needed to attend her. He was then allowed to leave the court.
The court then adjourned for 10 minutes before continuing with the normal case proceedings.
Later, addressing a press conference, Sharif said he appeared before the accountability courts and declared that “I am clean.”
“I believe that God and the people of Pakistan are with me, and I hope that, somewhere, justice is alive,” he said.
“The whole country is being punished the people and the generations to come. They have made a mockery of a progressive Pakistan on the track of democracy.
“I appeal that this country be allowed to progress in line with the Constitution. If the Constitution gives the people the right to govern, let them realise that right,” he said.
Sharif’s court appearance today was just a formality to ensure that he was ready to face the trial. He stayed at the court for about 10 minutes.
He was accompanied by his lawyer Khawaja Harris who would represent him as a counsel in the corruption cases.
The court had last week summoned Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law capt (retd) Safdar to appear before it on September 26. The Sharif family had skipped a court hearing on September 19.
When the hearing started again, the judge asked about Maryam, Hussain and Hasan, and Sharif’s son-in-law Safdar who were also ordered to appear the same day.
Sharif’s lawyer Harris said that they were in London to take care of their ailing mother but the court rejected the argument and ordered them to appear before it on October 2.
The National Accountability Bureau’s legal team also requested the court to order the interior ministry to place Sharif’s name on the exit control list.
Harris told the court that Sharif needed to take care of his wife in London and that he would be allowed to skip personal appearance.
The court refused by saying that he should first appear on the day of indictment and the issue of skipping personal appearance will be decided later on.
Hundreds of Sharif s supporters, including Pakistan Muslims League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders, lawyers, lawmakers and several ministers were present in the court premises. Heavy security arrangements were made around the judicial complex.
The NAB has filed three cases of corruption and money laundering against Sharif, his sons — Hassan and Hussain, daughter — Maryam, son-in-law — Safdar, and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the Accountability Court in Islamabad and Rawalpindi recently.
The anti-graft body last week froze the bank accounts and seized properties of Sharif and his family members to put pressure on them to appear before the court.
Sharif’s family has alleged that the cases are politically motivated.