ISLAMABAD: In the wake of delayed but historic verdict, the legal minds in the country have termed the accountability court’s ruling “full of contradictions”.
Renowned lawyer Faisal Siddiqui told The Express Tribune that it is a judgment “full of contradictions”, that relies on inadmissible evidence and draws inferences about evidences based upon unproven facts. Moreover, it’s a misapplication of law, he stressed.
Siddiqui believes that the verdict will go down in the judicial history as a horrible example of miscarriage of justice. He wonders that at one point the court held that corruption could not be proved in the ownership of flats, but former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is being convicted for possession of the same apartments, whose source of purchase has not been proved - a classic contradiction.
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Likewise, former attorney general for Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf Ali contends that the judgment cannot be sustained, adding that three basic questions were involved in the matter. “Firstly, whether there was any corruption. Second, was the money transferred to London? Third, who was the owner of the flats when it was transferred to Neilson and Nescol and how money was paid to the original owner and by whom?
However, Barrister Asad Rahim Khan, commenting on the judgment, said that questions of law answered by this decision — including those relating to burden of proof, white collar crime, and what constitutes evidence — should be considered in depth at each stage of appeal, so that we gain clarity in our jurisprudence one way or another. Also, accountability starting from the top should always be welcomed, it must now extend to all institutions as well, he adds.
The legal experts believe that now all eyes are on the Islamabad High Court (IHC), wherein appeal against the verdict would be filed in the next 10 days. They say it would be interesting to see which two IHC judges will be part of the division bench to take up Sharif’s appeal in the next couple of weeks.
According to the proposed roster, IHC judges Justice Aamar Farooq, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb will be part of bench which will hear the cases in the next two weeks.
Moreover, it is expected that the appeal would be fixed before two of them. Interestingly, three other judges, including the IHC CJ, would be on summer vacations in the ongoing month. A senior lawyer says that the judgment is so weak that it would be suspended.
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In addition to it, IHC senior judge Justice Shaukat Aziz will also be on work from July 9 to August 10. Due to summer vacations, the IHC CJ will not be part of the bench. In this scenario it seems that Siddiqui is likely to hear the appeal, who may suspend the judgment, he added.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf lawyer Hamid Khan explained that after the conviction they could not be given protective bail. They would have to first file an appeal against the decision and then they could file a writ petition, seeking suspension of the sentence.
However, it is prerequisite for them to personally appear before the court if they file for suspension of sentence petition which is almost like a bail, he revealed.
Paksitan Peoples Party leader Khursheed Shah also expressed his opinion saying that the decision could have been announced three months earlier rather than this time when elections are on the verge. He said let the people decide on the election day - July 25 - and everything will be clear on that day.
Senior lawyer Salman Akram Raja said they could get protective custody on plea to file appeal before the court in 10 days. They will have to file a writ petition for protection against the arrest in order to enable them to file an appeal in the high court against the decision. There are precedents available in which protective bails were granted on pleas. The petitioners should be allowed to reach the court.
Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) President Anwarul Haq Pannu said no protective bail could be granted to the convicts.
Senior advocate Azhar Siddique said the Sharif family has been awarded less punishment, adding that they should be given 14 years imprisonment. He said PML-N’s card to get public sympathy will not work this time as the people are fully aware.
Senior lawyer Aftab Bajwa said the people will not support any ‘daku’ (dacoit) in this election.
[WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM RANA YASIF FROM LAHORE]