ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday allowed counsel for the jailed members of the Sharif family to amend a petition seeking suspension of their sentences and release on bail by nominating as respondents the trial court judge that on July 6 found them guilty in Avenfield case and others.

An accountability court last month convicted former premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar and sentenced them to 10-year, seven-year and two-year rigorous imprisonment, respectively. It also imposed a heavy fine on the father and the daughter.

On Wednesday before Safdar’s counsel Amjad Pervaiz could argue for his release on the sole ground of ‘short sentence’ awarded to him before the IHC’s division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) raised several objections.

NAB’s Deputy Prosecutor General (DPG) Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said suspension petition could not be heard when appeal against the accountability court’s verdict was already fixed for hearing.

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Abbasi also said that the petitioners have not nominated the accountability court’s judge and NAB as respondents in the petition but sought relief against his judgment. “He added that the petitioners have only nominated NAB chairman as respondent.

The DPG argued that cases are interlinked and hearing them separately would affect other cases. He added that an efficacious remedy is available in the shape of hearing of the appeals against the judgment in a few days’ time and the petitioners cannot avail relief through suspension application.

He said appeals are fixed for hearing after summer vacations.

The IHC bench later refrained from giving any findings as they might affect the other two cases pending against Sharifs in the same accountability court. It observed that any finding either way would prejudice the cases later on, adding that the court cannot decide Safdar’s petition without catering to NAB’s objections and that is why there would not be any finding on the petition by the court.

“The judge needs to be made a party in the case because we [IHC] would be issuing writ against an order of the court,” Justice Farooq said. He added that judgment was issued by the court and not NAB.

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When the case was taken up, Pervaiz said he was seeking suspension of the judgment on the sole ground that Safdar’s sentence falls within the category of ‘short sentence’ according to a judgment of the Supreme Court. “The apex court has treated any sentence that is up to five years as short sentence.”

In Safdar’s case, he said, he is just a witness of a document [trust deed] which has been declared fake.

“Finding against me is that I am a witness to my wife’s signature on the trust deed. That is my role,” Pervaiz said. He said the sole basis of Safdar’s conviction is the report of one witness, a forensic expert Robert Radley, which also is an uncorroborated piece of evidence.

Wednesday’s arguments were limited to the extent that they do not touch the merits of the case. Later, the court while allowing the counsel to amend the petitions adjourned till August 13 Sharif, Maryam and Safdar’s petitions seeking suspension of their sentences.