The Islamabad High Court (IHC) will take up former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s appeals against his conviction in the Al-Azizia and Avenfield cases tomorrow (Thursday). A two-judge bench comprising Justice Aamir Farooq and Mohsin Akhtar Kayani will hear the case. The court has also been conveyed that Nawaz won’t appear before it.
Medical reports of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif submitted in Islamabad High Court today. pic.twitter.com/IteRVzKmuL
— Attaullah Tarar (@TararAttaullah) September 9, 2020
The PML-N supremo, through his lawyer Khawaja Haris, today moved two miscellaneous applications in the IHC seeking exemption from personal appearance before it on medical grounds. He stated that he was unable to appear in court because of his ill-health.
At the previous hearing, the IHC had directed Sharif to appear before it on September 10 and warned that it will declare him an absconder over failure to turn up. It also warned of action against those who acted as guarantors to secure the bail for the PML-N leader.
“We deem [it] appropriate that an opportunity is granted to the appellant [Nawaz] to appear before the court and surrender to the authorities before the next date of hearing,” the court had said in its order.
“Failing this, proceedings would be initiated against him in accordance with law including but not limited to the provisions of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance, 1999,” it said, adding, “Admittedly, the appellant [Nawaz Sharif] is not on bail and is also not present in the court but has made an application for exemption from appearance due to medical reasons.”
The IHC observed that Nawaz also did not inform it when he travelled abroad or when his name was removed from the ECL.
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Has Nawaz decided to let Maryam take over party reins?
Raja Amir, a prominent lawyer, argues that there is no such big legal challenge for Nawaz which may stop him from returning to Pakistan. He also thinks that Nawaz had decided to end his political career and let Maryam be part of mainstream politics. Therefore, he insists, it is in Nawaz’s best interest to come to Pakistan. However with court granting Maryam and Capt. Sardar a separate right of appeal, this urgency for Nawaz may now disappear.
Some political analysts are of the view that there is no serious legal challenge for Nawaz but still he won’t come back because of the deal he has signed. There is a growing perception that Nawaz Sharif went to London after signing a deal with the establishment.
The cases against the former premier
It is important to mention here that on April 20, 2017 the Supreme Court of Pakistan issued orders in Panamagate case and directed the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the Sharif family’s financial affairs.
FIA’s Additional Director General Wajid Zia, a grade 21 officer, was appointed as head of the probe team. The JIT consisted of Amer Aziz of the State Bank of Pakistan, Executive Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan Bilal Rasool, National Accountability Bureau Director Irfan Naeem Mangi, Brig Muhammad Nauman Saeed of the Inter-Services Intelligence and Brig Kamran Khurshid of the Military Intelligence.
On the basis of the JIT report, SC on July 28, 2017, disqualified Nawaz Sharif for not being honest and truthful. The court stated that “it is hereby declared that having failed to disclose his un-withdrawn receivables, constituting assets from Capital FZE Jebel Ali, UAE in his nomination papers filed for the General Elections held in 2013 in terms of Section 12(2)(f) of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 (ROPA), and having furnished a false declaration under solemn affirmation respondent No. 1, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is not honest in terms of Section 99(f) of ROPA and Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 and therefore he is disqualified to be a Member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)”.
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The bench further said that on the basis of this information, collected by the JIT, cases should be opened against then Finance Minister Ishaq Dar; then MNA Captain Muhammad Safdar; Maryam, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz, and the ousted premier, Nawaz Sharif.
The Avenfield reference was filed by the NAB in an accountability court against Nawaz Sharif a few years ago. Judge Muhammad Bashir of the accountability court announced the decision in the case.
Nawaz Sharif was handed over 19 years imprisonment for owning assets beyond known income and 1 year for not cooperating with NAB. His daughter Maryam was given 7 years for abetment after she was found “instrumental in concealment of the properties of her father” and 1 year for non-cooperation with the bureau. Nawaz’s son-in-law retired Captain Safdar was also given 1 year jail time — for not cooperating with NAB, and aiding and abetting Nawaz and Maryam.
On July 10, 2018, Judge Bashir was due to resume hearing in the Al-Azizia reference but Nawaz’s counsel urged him to recuse himself from the trial proceedings in the Al-Azizia and Flagship references pending before the same judge. The case was then sent to Judge Arshad Malik, only other judge available to hear the case. But Judge Arshad was transferred literally in those days from Rawalpindi. He was serving as “Sessions Judge” in Punjab and was transferred by the federal ministry of law to serve as Accountability Judge. Many political analysts find the sequence of events very strange.
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Nawaz was handed 7 years in jail in Al-Azizia reference by Judge Arshad Malik. Nawaz was also fined Rs1.5 billion, US $25 million. The judge, Arshad Malik, however, maintained that there was no case against Nawaz in Flagship reference. Nawaz later obtained bail from Islamabad High Court in Avon-field case where he was convicted by Judge Mohammad Bashir.