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Verdict in Avenfield reference to be announced on July 6; challenges for Sharifs


News Analysis |

Despite various delaying tactics used by Sharif family and their legal counsel, the accountability court is all set to announce the verdict in Avenfield Properties reference against Sharif family on July 6.

The Avenfield reference was among those filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, sons Hassan and Hussain Nawaz, and son-in-law retired captain Mohammad Safdar on Supreme Court’s orders given during the Panamagate case which disqualified Sharif.

The five-judge larger bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan unanimously announced the decision of Nawaz’s disqualification.

According to the JIT report submitted in the Panamagate case, the Sharifs had given contradictory statements about their London flats and found that the flats actually belonged to them since 1993.

“It is hereby declared that having failed to disclose his un-withdrawn receivables constituting assets from Capital FZE Jebel Ali, UAE in his nomination papers filed for the General Elections held in 2013 in terms of Section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 judgment reads.

Read more: Nawaz requests court to hear closing arguments of Avenfield, Al-Azizia, Flagship…

The NAB prosecutor has stated before the accountability court that Nawaz Sharif had acquired four apartments in Avenfield House, Park Lane, London. Sharif family insists that they had purchased the apartments through ‘legitimate’ financial resources. However, they have remained unable to present those resources before the accountability court or the Supreme Court. This created serious challenges for the entire Sharif family at both political and legal fronts.

The apex court had directed the accountability court to conclude proceedings within six months and appointed Justice Ijazul Ahsan — who was a member of the bench that heard Panama Papers case — as a “supervisory judge” for the trial. Later on, more time was given to the accountability court to decide the matter.

Despite various delay tactics used by Sharif family and their legal counsel, the accountability court is all set to announce the verdict in Avenfield Properties reference against Sharif family on July 6.

Moreover, the proceedings in the Avenfield reference started in the September last year, and the accountability court indicted Sharif, Maryam and Safdar on October 19, 2017. The prosecution produced 21 witnesses including star witness Wajid Zia, the head of the joint investigation team (JIT) which probed the Panamgate case, Director General NAB Zahir Shah, British forensic expert Robert William Radley and solicitor Akhtar Riaz Raja.

Sharifs appeared before the court and recorded their statements under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). Nawaz’s legal counsel remained focused on pointing out technical flaws to win the case. The main objections were raised against Akhtar Riaz Raja who happened to be a cousin of Wajid Zia.

Read more: The real owner of Avenfield Apartments: Hussain Nawaz or Maryam Safdar?

Moreover, according to the JIT report submitted in the Panamagate case, the Sharifs had given contradictory statements about their London flats and found that the flats actually belonged to them since 1993.

The Verdict of Accountability Court before Elections?

Pakistan is all set to hold the general elections on July 25. The decision of the court just 19 days before general elections will obviously affect the outcomes. One line of argument is that the verdict, if against Sharifs, will benefit the family. In Pakistan, when leaders go to jails, they generally become popular and heroes of the nation. Nawaz and Maryam are expecting the same.

On the other hand, there is another line of argument, Nawaz and his family will become declared ‘corrupt’ and their political career will end. This makes more sense if public sentiments are considered after Nawaz’s disqualification. People accepted the court’s decision and Nawaz become almost a joke in the eyes of people. Now if Nawaz remains unable to satisfy the court, it is likely that his political support will cease to exist in Pakistan where a new President of the PML-N is making his way to pave way for his son Hamza Shahbaz.

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