The Islamabad High Court (IHC) will take up on Tuesday (tomorrow) appeals of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, and son-in-law Captain Safdar, against their conviction in the Avenfield reference. The court will also take up the PML-N supremo’s appeal against his conviction in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference. Legal experts are debating whether the IHC will grant Nawaz exemption from appearance in court.
Nawaz’s lawyer Khawaja Haris moved two miscellaneous applications in the IHC earlier today, stating that his client could not appear before the court tomorrow. Haris requested the court allow Nawaz exemption from personal appearance in the case on medical grounds.
The applications submitted to the IHC registrar will be taken up along with the appeals tomorrow. A two-judge bench of the high court, comprising Justice Aamir Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, will hear the case.
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Legal experts believe that the court may raise two points during the hearing. First, viral photos of the former premier clearly indicate that his health has considerably improved, and he should, therefore, return to Pakistan. Second, the court may ask the lawyer to produce medical reports of Nawaz Sharif to assess if he can be granted the exemption.
The overall situation, argue legal experts, seems not to be in Nawaz’s favor. In either case, he is likely to face a legal battle over the matter. The appeals of Nawaz and Maryam against the Avenfield verdict will come up for hearing after a passage of more than a year.
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The accused have been out on bail since Sept 19, 2018 when the IHC suspended the 10-year, seven-year, and one-year imprisonment handed down to Nawaz, Maryam, and Safdar, respectively, by an accountability court on July 6, 2018. The Supreme Court later upheld the suspension of their conviction while rejecting the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) appeal against the high court’s decision.
The court will also take up Nawaz’s appeal against his conviction in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference on September 1. NAB’s appeals, including one seeking an increase in the leader’s sentence in the Al-Azizia case from seven years to 14 years, and the other against his acquittal in the Flagship reference, will also be heard.
Accountability court Judge Muhammad Arshad Malik had handed the verdicts in the Al-Azizia and Flagship cases. He was later dismissed from his post following a video scandal.
Addressing a press conference alongside top PML-N leadership on July 6, 2019, Maryam had shown reporters a video in which Judge Arshad Malik was heard saying that there was “no proof of corruption against the deposed premier” in the Al-Azizia reference and that he was coerced into convicting him.
Will Nawaz to go to jail on his return?
Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said on Monday that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif went to London for treatment from prison and will return to it the moment he lands in Pakistan.
The federal minister, in a statement, said that the court has changed the surety in the case, but it needs to summon Shehbaz Sharif to discuss Nawaz’s return. “First of all, Nawaz was serving jail time, so when he returns, he will go back to jail. Secondly, Nawaz will do plea bargain and return the money [he allegedly looted],” said the minister.
There is a growing perception that Nawaz Sharif went to London after signing a deal with the establishment. Those who suspect a deal point towards the past. If the history of Pakistan is any witness to recent events, it may be true. Generally, politically powerful people in Pakistan are rarely punished in a court of law; convictions, even if obtained in lower courts, are almost always overturned by superior courts.