The accountability court on Tuesday told beleaguered prime minister Nawaz Sharif to find himself a new lawyer by June 19, which is when hearing of the Al-Azizia reference will resume.
Nawaz, who is fighting multiple corruption references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on the directions of the Supreme Court, saw his counsel Khawaja Haris recuse himself from the case on Monday after the SC ordered daily hearings of the case, including on Saturdays.
The PML-N leader, after losing his lead counsel, had complained in a press conference that his fundamental rights were being violated “as no lawyer will take up a case where he is not even allowed time to prepare and is asked to appear even on the weekends.”
When accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir resumed the Avenfield reference proceedings today, Nawaz asked for time to hire a fresh attorney, saying: “My lawyer has recused himself and so it is my fundamental right to engage a new lawyer of my choice.”
Nawaz said that “Since Haris was well-versed with the case, it is not easy for me to engage another lawyer at this stage.”
He reminded the court that in the last few months he has appeared in the accountability court about 100 times and not once moved a frivolous application.
At this, Justice Bashir read out the apex court’s orders and pointed out that the SC had not made it mandatory for the accountability court to hold hearings on Saturdays and that the weekend hearings were still going to be conducted at the accountability court’s discretion.
The judge suggested that Nawaz share the written order with Khawaja Haris and try to convince him to rejoin the case.
Nawaz countered that the SC has pressed for the early disposal of the references and that Haris has made it clear that he cannot work in “such an environment”.
The accountability court judge replied that the SC’s observations and remarks were not part of the written order and “if Haris chooses not to reconsider his decision then you should engage a new lawyer” by June 19.
Nawaz said that he, too, is fed up since the cases against him have dragged on for months, before suggesting, with a tinge of bitterness, that “If the chief justice wants my conviction he may transfer this case before his own bench and award me capital punishment or send me to jail.”
Meanwhile, the hearing of the Avenfield reference against Maryam Nawaz, originally scheduled for Wednesday, was adjourned until Thursday on account of Maryam having to appear before a returning officer (RO) for the scrutiny of her nominations papers for the upcoming general elections.