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Nawaz & Maryam conviction: Has NAB set the stage for a good appeal?

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Khurram Saeed |

Maryam Nawaz – daughter of ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and till Aug 2017 the most powerful woman in Pakistan – thunders from Avon-field Apartments, near Hyde Park, London to bring a new political revolution in Pakistan. Apparently to achieve this tumultuous historic change both father and daughter duo are arriving back to Lahore on Friday, 13 July.

While politicians -like Maryam and her father – have the right to thunder and promise elections, the reality is that the Sharif family was a dynasty stitched together by legal technicalities. No other political dynasty in South Asia or perhaps the whole world was ever a creation of courts the way Sharif family was. Bereft of any political ideology, any historical mission, any sense of statecraft Sharifs were merely a function of their understanding of the weaknesses and loopholes in Pakistani law.

From 1982 till 2017 they used, they flaunted, they exploited, they milked, they extracted everything, whatever they have today by their understanding of Pakistani legal system, courts, legal community, and sections and sub-sections of law and they were masters of this game – in the end, like what happens to any maverick, their run lack out. Maryam still does not understand this.

NAB, and the government functionaries cast serious doubts on the integrity of the future appeal process. NAB – given its history of past 12 months – may not seriously object to the rejection of bail of any of the accused or may not even seriously contest the suspension of sentence.

Nawaz & Maryam Shock on Trial and Verdict is a Farce? 

Nawaz and Maryam feign shock that their trial has finally resulted in the conviction. Like everything else in their politics – this too is a farce. This trial could not have ended in anything but a “conviction” – and this happened despite they being represented by the best legal minds, despite being helped by large sections of media, political government of PMLN, Punjab bureaucracy and invisible elements inside NAB.

The conviction was written on the wall because of the black and white nature of the case against them – they had willy-nilly admitted ownership of assets – properties in London – but were not willing or capable of explaining the source of funds. A public office holder in a similar situation, anywhere else in the world would have been vanquished long time ago without the need of any trial, legal action, any commission, any inquiry. The mere weight of public opinion, of the moral consciousness of a nation, would have sent someone like Nawaz and family into oblivion. But in Pakistan’s case, we had to suffer more than two years of political tribulations and a painful circus of liars, cheaters, and swindlers before reaching the final verdict of July 6.

Read more: Nawaz Sharif denies ownership of London properties

Long Trial Helped: Almost all Questions are now Settled?

Maybe this long drawn battle was good – because now apart from Maryam, her father and foreign supporters in India and the US, all – including those PMLN minions who are compelled to defend them – know the reality. Though the endless media discussions, transparent supreme court proceedings, apex court’s detailed decision of April 20, (spread over 500 pages) JIT Report (of 10 Volumes) that followed and then Supreme court decision of July 28 had exposed all facts and there was nothing left to hide, to fudge or to fool – but the final trial was still important to give them a chance of legal chicanery, legal sophistry in which they specialize.

This trial began, in August and September of 2017, with the Nawaz government in full power; a position which continued till May 31st. Though two main opposition parties, media and many in the legal community demanded that Nawaz government should dissolve assemblies few days earlier so that the general elections could be held within 90 days rather than 60 – but Nawaz’s handpicked prime minister, Shahid Khakkan Abbassi, was adamant that PMLN government will continue till the last day.

NAB working under PMLN government’s direct control and supervision was the lead agency and most investigators and prosecutors were Nawaz government appointees – providing sufficient space for sympathy and support. In this scenario, all kinds of conceivable favors that could be expected were given to Nawaz and family. For example, despite repeated summons, he didn’t appear before NAB. Yet, no coercive steps were taken to enforce his presence.

Like Maryam and her father – have the right to thunder and promise elections, the reality is that the Sharif family was a dynasty stitched together by legal technicalities. No other political dynasty in South Asia or perhaps the whole world was ever a creation of courts the way Sharif family was.

Filing of reference was delayed despite time specific directions from Supreme Court. When reference was filed it was clearly less than perfect, as has been confirmed by the recent judgment. Unnecessary and frivolous charges were included either out of incompetence or intentionally to weaken the prosecution case – and to provide loopholes for a persuasive appeal at the High Court level. Did I mention at the outset of this piece that Sharifs are the only dynasty in human history that has been created by courts – and loopholes of law?

Read more: Social media lambasted Maryam Nawaz for her delusional ‘no-load shedding tweet’

NAB was Unusually Lenient to Sharifs Throughout, but Why?

Let’s move forward a bit; standard legal procedures of NAB require immediate arrest of the accused or the accused obtains a bail before the reference is filed. Surprisingly, in the case of Nawaz and Maryam, none of this was done and the trial started. Both sons of Nawaz fled to London even before the start of the trial, nothing was done by NAB authorities, by Ministry of Interior under PMLN government or any other section of the government to stop them from fleeing and soon ridiculous claims were made that sons are British residents or citizens (without ever submitting anything in black and white) and as such not accountable to courts in Pakistan. Excuse me! Are dual citizens not accountable? Were they not sons of the Prime Minister of Pakistan?

Leniency by NAB marked the beginnings and continued as the trial progressed. Soon ex-finance minister Mr. Ishaq Dar – variously referred to as the “Perkins Economic Hitman” and someone that can be rightly blamed for the economic mess Pakistan is in disappeared from the country on Prime Minister’s special plane. He landed in Mecca via Central Asia and claimed serious heart ailment after reaching London.

No substantive action was ever taken against him; system conspired to help the Sharifs to the extent that absconding Dar -supposedly the holder of Sharif financial secrets – was even allowed to fight Senate Elections and was elected to the highest lawmaking body. So much for Maryam’s cries and protests, a short distance from the “Speakers Corner” in Hyde Park – ironically Avon-field Apartments are a stone throw away from “Speakers Corners” where the public is supposed to speak their truth and do catharsis.

Coming back to specifics of law; under section 170 of CrPC (Pakistan’s Criminal Procedure Code), the accused is required to be either in police custody or on bail at the time of trial. NAB has – historically speaking – always arrested the accused and only then it began the trials. There is no provision for bail in NAB law so the accused files a writ petition for bail. This itself shows the rigors of the NAB law. The chairman NAB decides under section 24 whether to issue warrants of arrest.

In this scenario, all kinds of conceivable favors that could be expected were given to Nawaz and family. For example, despite repeated summons, he didn’t appear before NAB. Yet, no coercive steps were taken to enforce his presence.

However, in Nawaz Sharif case the chairman NAB did not issue any warrant and the accused was allowed open and free movement before and during the trial – this is how he and Maryam were conveniently in London at the time of verdict on July 6. This was not only unprecedented but is also in sharp contradiction to NAB’s ruthless practice in hundreds of other cases; where accused were first arrested and then it was decided whether to even prosecute them or not.

Read more: NAB requests interior ministry to place name of Nawaz, Maryam and…

There are countless examples where the accused was arrested even before filing of a reference and he remained in custody during the trial for a long period of time. Haris steel Mills matter is a case in point. The accused were arrested from Malaysia and Dubai and brought to Pakistan in or around 2010 and are still languishing in jail – after eight years. Chairman OGRA, Tauqir Sadiq went through the same ruthless procedures. There are many other examples beyond the scope of this piece of writing.

As mentioned already, the accused in this case – Nawaz Sharif and family – were allowed to leave Pakistan as and when they wanted. Although the grounds pleaded – Kulsum Nawaz’s illness – were very humanitarian but no concrete evidence till date has ever been presented to reveal Kulsum’s real state of health and to show that Nawaz’s presence was required in London to help his wife recover – since his two absconding sons in their forties, and multimillionaires, were already there. This again was a massive deviation from standard legal and judicial practice.

The court and the NAB have been mechanically granting permissions to travel in and out of Pakistan very lightly which is unusual and militates against the spirit of the NAB law and NAB’s previous practices. As a result of this trial, supposedly to be finished, within six months in March 2018, kept on being delayed, additional time was sought from Supreme Court 2-3 times and finally, Mr. Nawaz Sharif didn’t return in time and the judgment had to be passed in his absence. He made a final mockery of courts, of state, of law and the whole world by demanding from the trial judge that he should delay his judgment for another week – since his wife is not well. The story of this trial will find place in Guinness Book of World Records- since Nawaz was allowed to mock the court and trial only to meet his political requirements, tailored around the July 25 general elections in Pakistan.

Merits of the final judgment (Verdict of July 6) are difficult to sum up in this space. However, in a sensitive case like this being watched not only by 200 million Pakistanis but observers world over, and accused being the three times elected Prime Minister of Pakistan its surprising, to say the least, that Nawaz – Maryam’s papa – and his lawyers decided not to place him in the witness stand.

Nawaz neither took stand himself nor produced any other witnesses to support his version in the national assembly and various other speeches to nation. This puts a big question mark on the veracity of his defence especially when the burden of proof was on him given the nature of this case. (His children are in possession of a property; his sons abscond, and his daughter summits forged documents). The famous or the infamous Qatari letter, original trust deeds and the money trail could have been produced and explained but he abstained from doing so and under the law of evidence it is therefore presumed that such evidence if produced would have been unfavorable to his case . (Section 129 (g).

Read more: The Court of Verdict Should be the Supreme Court not the…

Why NAB Ignored Anchors Sana Bucha & Javaid Chaudhry?

However, the prosecution (NAB in this case) also failed to do many things to further improve their case. For example, Prosecutors should have produced Anchors Sana Bucha and Javed Chaudhry who had interviewed both Maryam Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz – to describe the interviews in which completely contradictory statements were made. While the media kept making fun, Maryam and Hussain were never brought in a position to explain the humungous difference in their statements. I recently heard a Sharif family lawyer – once a very respected name in the profession – telling a TV anchor that Trust Deed signed in 2006 was not only private but was only meant for three months.

Nawaz Sharif case the chairman NAB did not issue any warrant and the accused was allowed open and free movement before and during the trial – this is how he and Maryam were conveniently in London at the time of verdict on July 6.

Excuse me! If that was so, then what was Hussain Nawaz telling Javaid Chaudhry in April 2016, almost 10 years after the supposed Trust Deed, that my sister, Maryam, is the beneficial owner of Avon-field Apartments? In any case, possession, use and occupation of the said properties is fully admitted by all concerned in the family. The irony that the final judgment, of July 6, was heard by all the parties sitting inside the same Avon-field Apartments is unmistakable.

It was perhaps also a laughable Freudian slip when Nawaz had admitted in his first speech post “Panama Leaks” that anybody who steals money never keeps it in his own name. For the whole duration of trial, Nawaz, his daughter, lawyers and all party apparatchiks kept crying that “Properties are not even in Nawaz’s name”. But, once the possession of such properties was admitted by Hussain and Maryam, under the NAB law the court had the reason to presume that the property belongs to the real owner ie Nawaz Sharif – as his children were all minors and incapable of possessing funds for the purchase of the property. This is something that echoed in courts and media throughout these two years – since April 2016 – and finds repeated mention in the final verdict of July 6, 2018.

Read more: Are Nawaz’s anti-judiciary antics justifiable?

Will NAB Again try to Bail Out Nawaz & Maryam? 

Many more questions linger, but let’s leave these questions for the appellate court. At this stage however if the past is any guide to the future, the continuous leniency shown by courts, NAB, and the government functionaries cast serious doubts on the integrity of the future appeal process. NAB – given its history of past 12 months – may not seriously object to the rejection of bail of any of the accused or may not even seriously contest the suspension of sentence.

If the events of past one year – since August 2017 – are any guide then apparently grounds are still being prepared for providing whatever relief is possible to tilt the political balance in favor of Nawaz before the elections. If Nawaz has to save his properties from the risks now contained in the British law of “Unexplained Wealth Order” he has to once again manage courts in Pakistan – and that is why he and Maryam are coming here on July 13.

Khurrum Saeed is practicing law, in Lahore, for the past 25 years; he is an Advocate of Supreme Court of Pakistan and has dealt repeatedly with cases made and tried under the NAB Ordinance. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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