By ZARAR KHAN
ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani anti-graft tribunal on Monday postponed the indictment of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for a week after his children, who are co-defendants in the case, failed to appear in court.
The Sharifs are facing the trial following orders by the country’s Supreme Court after an investigation into documents leaked from a Panama law firm indicated that Sharif and some of his family members had undisclosed assets abroad.
The Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from office in July, forcing him to step down — also over undisclosed assets. Sharif has denied any wrongdoing. Sharif and some of his party leaders have been pointing toward ‘hidden hands’ behind his dismissal and spate of corruption cases.
In Monday’s development, Judge Mohammad Bashir of the Accountability Court set Oct. 9 for the indictments against Sharif, his two sons, daughter and son in-law.
According to Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha, an attorney and lawmaker from Sharif’s party, his children are currently in London with their ailing mother who is undergoing treatment for throat cancer in Britain.
Sharif himself did appear in court on Monday amid stepped-up security. It was his second appearance before the same tribunal; last week, scores of his supporters, reporters and lawyers swarmed the small court room when he showed up, making it impossible for the judge to conduct proceeding smoothly. At that point, the frustrated judge ordered Sharif to leave and had his lawyers represent him the rest of the hearing.
The case against the former prime minister has become the center of much domestic media attention in Pakistan.
For Monday’s hearing, paramilitary rangers took over security around the court complex, barring media, lawyers, Sharif supporters — and even government ministers from entering. Much to his anger, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal was also stopped at the gate.
“I will take action over this,” Iqbal told reporters at that point. “Pakistan … is a constitutional state and there can’t be a state with in state” here, he added, a clear criticism of the military’s overwhelming power in this country.
Also Monday, Pakistan’s National Assembly adopted a bill passed earlier by the Senate regarding election reforms which paves the way for Sharif to regain his position as president of the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
Opposition members protested the bill presented by Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid, with some tearing up copies of it in defiance.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a lawmaker from opposition party Tehreek-e-Insaf, said the bill was “against the spirit of the constitution” and added that his party would challenge it in the country’s supreme court.