News Analysis |
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has dismissed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)’s appeal against suspension of sentences awarded to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz in Avenfiled properties case by the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
A five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising of Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel took up the NAB plea on Monday and dismissed it. The apex court after hearing arguments by both the sides dismissed the NAB’s appeal and maintained the high court’s decision of suspending the sentences of Nawaz, Maryam and Capt retd Mohamamd Safdar and releasing them on bail.
The apex court after hearing arguments by both the sides dismissed the NAB’s appeal and maintained the high court’s decision of suspending the sentences of Nawaz.
An accountability court had convicted the former premier, his daughter and son-in-law Captain retd Safdar in the Avenfield properties case on July 6 last year and handed down prison sentences of 10 years, seven years and 1 year respectively. Nawaz and Maryam, who were in London at the time of conviction, to meet the ailing Begum Kalsum Nawaz, were arrested at Lahore airport when they landed back in the country on July 13 and incarcerated at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail.
However, all three challenged their conviction in the Islamabad High Court and at the same time sought that their sentences be suspended until their appeals are decided. After a few weeks of hearing, the high court accepted the sentence-suspension plea by the trio and ordered their release on bail.
However, the NAB which had argued against suspension of sentences in the high court, challenged the IHC decision in the apex court, maintaining the high court had given its verdict on merits of the case without hearing their appeal or analyzing the evidence on record.
Nawaz and Maryam, who were in London at the time of conviction, to meet the ailing Begum Kalsum Nawaz, were arrested at Lahore airport.
Admitting the NAB plea in October, the top court had raised 17 legal questions, including whether the IHC could take up a constitutional petition when main appeals were already fixed for hearing. The top court had also questioned whether a detailed order was permissible while dealing with the suspension of sentence and whether or not the IHC had ignored guidelines laid down by the top court in the case reported as Muhammad Shakeel vs the State and others (PLD 2014 SC 458).
Many had expected reversal of the IHC decision when the chief justice raised questions and passed adverse remarks on IHC’s Sept 19 verdict. “How can the high court point out faults in evidence while giving a verdict on an appeal for bail? How about we nullify [IHC] verdict?” Chief Justice Saqib Nisar had asked while hearing the NAB appeal in November.
Monday’s decision is a big relief for Sharif, who is currently serving prison term in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail, and his daughter Maryam, who can be sure of not going back to jail any time soon. The Supreme Court’s verdict has also critically come days before hearing into Nawaz’s appeal against his conviction in Al-Azizia case. IHC takes up the appeal on January 21.
NAB had filed three corruption references against the former prime minister after Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court from holding a public office in July 2017. Sharif has been acquitted in one of the three cases, granted bail in the second, while his appeal against conviction in the third will be heard next week.