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Nawaz Sharif’s seized properties to be auctioned: Will he surrender?

An accountability court in Islamabad approved on Friday a plea of the NAB seeking its permission to auction the seized properties of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Will Nawaz Sharif now come back to Pakistan?

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An accountability court in Islamabad approved on Friday a plea of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) seeking its permission to auction the seized properties of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The accountability judge directed the authorities concerned to auction the former premier’s moveable and immoveable properties and deposit the money to be earned through the auction into the national exchequer. The bureau through its Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Khan Abbasi filed the application.

Abbasi stated that the accountability court had declared Sharif a proclaimed offender in the Toshakhana reference. Despite a lapse of six months, the former premier did not surrender himself before the court, he added.

He recalled that the court had declared Nawaz Sharif a proclaimed offender on August 17 and ordered attaching his property on Oct 1. He pleaded with the court to allow auction of the properties of Sharif in accordance with the law.

The properties worth billions of rupees include Ittefaq Foundry, Hudaibia Paper Mills, Baksh Textile and Hudaibia Engineering. Furthermore, the assets of Sharif in Upper Mall Road area, the fish farm built on 110 acres of land, 20 acres of land in Lahore, a bungalow located in Murree, Shangla’s house, five luxurious cars registered against the name of the former prime minister will be auctioned.

The amount of three foreign and five Pakistani bank accounts will also be moved to the national kitty after the court’s approval.

Cases against Nawaz Sharif: A background

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)”.

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.

Supreme Court References against Nawaz: Going Nowhere?

The Avenfield reference was filed by the NAB in an accountability court against Nawaz Sharif.  Judge Muhammad Bashir of the accountability court announced the decision. 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.

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.

Why won’t Nawaz return to Pakistan?

Raja Amir Abbas, a prominent legal expert and ex. Deputy Prosecutor General NAB, is of the view that the Sharif family may approach the court, and file a petition for retrial- in Al Azizia case – since the alleged confession and subsequent dismissal of Judge Arshad Malik provides a basis.

Raja Amir Abbas had also argued that it is in Nawaz’s interest to get back to Pakistan. “Nawaz would never like to be declared a proclaimed offender. It is not in his interest.  For him, Maryam’s political career is what matters the most,” he added.

Read More: Fawad Ch calls for probe into Nawaz Sharif medical test reports

Raja Amir maintains 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.

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