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Pakistan anti-graft court defers Sharif's indictment (Lead)

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Islamabad | Friday, 2017 7:45:04 PM IST
An anti-corruption court on Friday adjourned the indictment of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar in the Panama Papers case till October 19 after it witnessed a raucous protest by PML-N lawyers and supporters.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had registered three corruption references against Sharif, his family members and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the Islamabad Accountability Court after the apex court on July 28 disqualified the former Premier from holding office.

The corruption references against the Sharifs pertain to their London apartments, Azizia Steel Mills and 16 offshore companies.

Just as accountability court Judge Muhammad Bashir entered the courtroom to commence the hearing, a number of lawyers associated with the PML-N forced their way inside and surrounded the judge's bench, claiming that they were manhandled by security forces outside the court and were prevented from entering the courtroom, Dawn news reported.

The lawyers threatened to hold up the hearing until action was taken against the police officials. Due to the ruckus, Judge Bashir left the court room and later announced the postponement of the hearing till October 19.

NAB officials said they were manhandled by the lawyers inside the court and the head of their prosecution team, Sardar Muzaffar, was pushed from the dais.

Once Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) supporters and lawyers found out that the hearing had been adjourned, the crowd dispersed.

The former Prime Minister did not attend the hearing as he is in London with his ailing wife, Begum Kulsoom. He had sent his representative to the court.

Reacting to the situation, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan sent out a torrent of tweets accusing PML-N of attacking the country's judiciary.

"Today the PML-N attacked Pakistan's judiciary for the second time - today it was to protect the over Rs 30b Sharifs' loot stashed abroad," he tweeted.

"Clearly PMLN is hell-bent on destroying all state institutions. People of Pakistan must be prepared to stand up and defend our state institutions," Khan added.

Ending his tirade, Khan said that the destruction of state institutions means the disintegration of the state. He concluded, "This is the Sharif agenda which nation must counter."

Talking about the ruckus in the court, Maryam Nawaz asked the Interior Ministry to come up with a strategy to prevent such events from occurring in the future. She said the lawyers should have been permitted to attend the hearing.

The Interior Ministry asked Islamabad police to compile a detailed report on the incident.

Two lawyers, two female police officers and one woman constable were injured in the scuffle outside the accountability court.

PML-N's Talal Chaudhary dismissed reports that the party lawyers tried to force their way into the court, saying: "PML-N workers did nothing, the incident happened due to overcrowding, that is it."

Judge Bashir also approved the NAB plea to declare Sharif's sons, Hassan and Hussain, proclaimed offenders. Their non-bailable arrest warrants, issued at the last hearing on October 2, remain in effect.

--IANS soni/bg

( 509 Words)

2017-10-13-19:02:12 (IANS)

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