ISLAMABAD: Khawaja Haris, the lead lawyer of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, accused the accountability judge of tampering the record in the Al-Azizia and Hill Metal Establishment reference, as the court gave directions to the authorities concerned to submit relevant parts of the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report’s Volume 10.
During cross examination of the JIT head Wajid Zia, Haris alleged that Accountability Court-II Judge Arshad Malik altered the statement of the prosecution’s star witness on the insistence of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor. This, he added, was done during the witness’s cross examination without providing him an opportunity to contest the prosecutor’s assertion.
“I will not continue … I will ask Mian sahab [Nawaz Sharif] to change his lawyer … I will not become a party to the proceedings … these proceedings have become farcical,” Haris said before leaving the courtroom. “I will not allow any court to tamper the record,” he said, adding that the court made the change without listening to him.
He said the judge should have listened to NAB’s objection, taken his answer, written a new sentence instead of changing the previous one but the judge simply changed the sentence on the NAB prosecutor’s objection.
“The learned court changed the already recorded answer given by the witness in cross examination by deleting the words “it is incorrect to suggest” and adding another sentence as part of this witness’s statement in the form of a suggestion,” four associates of Haris stated in an application seeking adjournment till Monday to enable the defence team to avail remedy against the change.
The application read that the defence intends to challenge the change made in the recording of the deposition of Zia and to put the record straight. The counsel prayed for adjournment till Monday so that they could avail remedy from the Islamabad High Court, which was granted.
Earlier as the hearing went underway, Haris posed various questions to Wajid Zia, however the witness refrained from answering questions pertaining to corrections in the census.
“Haris is asking technical questions which I can only answer based on my general knowledge so there can be mistakes,” Zia told the court. Following this, Nawaz’s counsel asked Zia whether the JIT sought a financial statement from Saudi authorities of audited accounts of Hill Metals Establishment.
Meanwhile, before Nawaz Sharif was transported back to jail, Adiala jail authorities sought an exemption for the former premier’s appearance in court on August 31, citing security threats due to a protest by Tehreek-e-Labbaik.
The judge remarked that he was already considering granting exemption and added that now the situation has changed altogether.
The Tehreek-e-Labbaik has launched a protest march and is marching towards the federal capital to protest against a blasphemous cartoon contest in the Netherlands. The rally will reach Islamabad either Thursday night or Friday if negotiations between the government and the protesters are not successful.
Earlier on August 29, the NAB prosecutor told the court that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif received 88 per cent profit of Hill Metal Establishment (HME).
During the hearing, Sharif’s lawyer Haris posed questions to Wajid Zia about the cash flow and net profit of HME. The two, once again, exchanged heated verbal blows.
Haris remarked that Zia was grilled because of his dishonesty. These provoking remarks from Nawaz’s counsel angered NAB’s deputy prosecutor, Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, who raised objections over the use of inappropriate terms. Judge Malik too raised the objection over Haris’s tactics of repeatedly asking the same question from Zia and barred Nawaz’s counsel from going into technicalities and asked him not to divert attention from the case.
To this, Haris replied he had been practising law for 40 years and Zia knew why such questions were posed before him.
The judge also instructed Wajid Zia to avoid any unnecessary details during the discussions, to which Zia replied that in English language, even a comma matters.