Pakistan: Nawaz Sharif’s lawyers quit corruption trial in protest

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A group of lawyers defending Pakistan’s former prime minister in his corruption trial have quit in protest against a court deadline that they say is too close to national elections.

Nawaz Sharif, who was removed as prime minister in 2017 by the Supreme Court for allegedly concealing overseas assets, faces charges of money laundery, tax evasion and building off-shore assets.

The trial was scheduled to conclude this week, but the Supreme Court extended the deadline to July 10, a fortnight ahead of parliamentary elections in which Sharif’s party is a frontrunner.

“We have decided not to pursue the trial because our request for an indefinite extension was rejected,” Sharif’s chief attorney Khawaja Haris told reporters on Monday.

The court indicted Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law over charges related to his two previous terms in power in 1990s. The probe into the family was triggered by the Panama papers leak in 2016.

Sharif’s previous two terms in power in the 1990s ended prematurely. The first term through a direct military coup and the second through forced resignation.

Sharif, known as the strongest advocate for civilian supremacy in a country marred by years of violence by militants and political upheaval, has had rough relations with the military and the judiciary.

Some political commentators believe the country’s powerful military might be colluding with the judiciary to deal Sharif a guilty verdict just before the elections, and hurt his party’s chances of winning.

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