Pakistan Cabinet okays open trial of Nawaz Sharif in remaining two graft cases

Islamabad: Pakistan’s caretaker government today approved the open trial of jailed premier Nawaz Sharif in the remaining two graft cases against him,  withdrawing an earlier notification about his jail trial. Sharif, 68, along with his daughter Maryam, 44 and his son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar are serving jail terms of 10-years, seven years and one year respectively in Adiala jail in Rawalpindi, after an accountability court convicted them on July 6 over the family’s ownership of four luxury flats in London.

The former prime minister has two more pending corruption cases — the Al-Azizia steel mills and Flagship — against him. The Cabinet, led by interim Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk, approved the open trial of Sharif in the remaining two cases lodged against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). “It has been decided to let the accountability court hear the remaining two cases against Sharif to ensure his fair trial under Article 10 of the constitution,” law minister Ali Zafar told media after the Cabinet meeting.

After the arrest of Sharif and his daughter Maryam on July 13, the government had announced that the trial in the two pending cases would be held in jail. But his brother and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Shahbaz Sharif objected to it claiming that it was against the law. Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Haris had on Monday filed an application with the Islamabad High Court for a routine open trial in the two cases.

After the simmering controversy over jail trial, the caretaker Cabinet decided to revert to open trial, providing media with a chance to cover it. It means the cases will proceed as earlier, Ali said.

Meanwhile, the accountability court today adjourned trial in the two remaining graft cases against Sharif till July 30 after Haris informed judge Muhammad Bashir that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had admitted petitions seeking transfer of the cases from his court.

The IHC had yesterday adjourned until last week of July the hearing of the appeals filed by Sharif, his daughter and his son-in-law against the trail courrt’s verdict and transfer of cases against Sharif.

Judge Bashir, who had convicted Sharif in Avenfield corruption case, in a surprise move, had yesterday recused himself from hearing two other graft cases against the jailed former prime minister. In a letter addressed to Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Anwar Khan Kasi, Justice Bashir had said that he had no objection if the Al-Azizia steel mills and the Flagship corruption cases were transferred to some other judge, as he could not hear them.

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