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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Nawaz Sharif be given 14-year imprisonment in Al-Azizia case, NAB pleads with IHC

The anti-corruption watchdog pleaded with the high court to pronounce the 14-year imprisonment of the ex-premier in the Al-Azizia case, whereas, the IHC will also hear the petition challenging Sharif’s acquittal in Flagship reference. Read details here.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has fixed the hearing of miscellaneous pleas filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The NAB also pleads with the IHC to award 14-year imprisonment in Al-Azizia case to Nawaz.

A division bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) comprising Justice Amir Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani will hear the petitions against Nawaz Sharif on April 8.

The anti-corruption watchdog pleaded with the high court to pronounce the 14-year imprisonment of the ex-premier in the Al-Azizia case, whereas, the IHC will also hear the petition challenging Sharif’s acquittal in Flagship reference.

An accountability court handed ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seven years in jail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference, but acquitted him in a second reference related to Flagship Investments.

The reference pertains to the Sharifs being unable to justify the source of the funds provided to set up Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment (HME) in Saudi Arabia, making this a case of owning assets beyond means.

The petitions were filed under Article 151 by the anti-graft watchdog which stated that Nawaz Sharif is a convicted person in mega corruption cases and pleaded with the court to summon the former premier to take action in accordance with the law.

Read more: The unprecedented rise of the Sharifs of Gawalmandi

It may be noted that the last hearing on the pleas had been conducted on December 9, 2020. The anti-graft watchdog had sought to increase the jail term of Sharif from seven to 14 years in Al-Azizia reference.

Nawaz Sharif mocked the entire system, Justice Kayani

Back in 2020, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani passed some strong remarks against the former premier. “Nawaz Sharif left for London after deceiving the government and the nation,” the judge noted. Justice Kayani also said that “Nawaz mocked the entire system”. “This is very shameful,” the judge lamented.

The IHC was hearing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s appeals against his conviction in the Al-Azizia and Avenfield cases. A two-judge bench comprising Justice Aamir Farooq and Mohsin Akhtar Kayani was hearing the case.

Nawaz Sharif’s lawyers maintained before the court that he was ill and could not appear before the courts. The lawyers, however, failed to furnish any reliable medical report before the courts. Nawaz spent not a single night in any hospital in London. He left for the UK on health grounds and demanded relief from the government as well as the courts.

Nawaz Sharif went to London on health grounds

It is important to note that the federal cabinet granted in-principle “conditional” approval to remove Nawaz’s name from the ECL. The government had asked the Sharif family to pay Rs.7 billion as surety bonds — equivalent to the fines imposed on him by an accountability court in two corruption cases Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Avenfield properties — in which he was convicted.

The PML-N leadership rejected the offer. While addressing a press conference after a consultation meeting of senior party leaders in Lahore, Shehbaz Sharif said that the incumbent government of PTI wanted to take ransom from the Sharif family in the name of an indemnity bond.

The Lahore High Court on Saturday (usually an off day) allowed former premier Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for four weeks for medical treatment, saying the duration could be extended based on medical reports.

A two-judge bench, comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem, started hearing the petition at 11 am and after multiple breaks and back and forth, delivered the verdict close to 6 pm.

In the court-approved undertaking, Nawaz assured that he would return “within four weeks” ─ a time frame that was missing in the initial handwritten undertaking.

Read more: Is Nawaz Sharif speaking Ajit Doval’s language?

Contrary to what the NAB is expecting—14-year imprisonment in Al-Azizia case—analysts argue that no politically powerful person in Pakistan’s history has ever been punished in a court of law in a corruption case; convictions even if obtained in lower courts are almost always overturned by superior courts. The system simply does not have the will to punish powerful people- they argue.  In this case, powerful sections of media, doctors and other actors active behind the scenes may be making a case to pressurize Prime Minister Imran Khan to let Nawaz go to London under a medical emergency, it’s being said.