ISLAMABAD: After hearing the case at length for days and reprimanding and fining the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for wasting its time, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has deferred the Sharifs petitions to suspend an accountability court’s July 6 verdict till after summer vacations.
Apparently, the order has confirmed that the former prime minister Nawaz Shairf, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar will spend their Eidul Azha in Adiala jail, where they are serving sentences awarded in connection with the Avenfield Apartments case last month.
In its order issued on Monday, the IHC’s division bench, comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, said “at this stage we are not inclined to decide these petitions and they shall remain pending and fixed along with the appeals.”
The bench said: “In case there is a delay in deciding of the appeals then the petitioner shall be at liberty to press these petitions.” The order said the judges reached the conclusion after perusal of the orders passed therein show that a division bench has earlier directed fixation of appeals immediately after the summer vacation, 2018..
n addition, the order read, Section 32 (appeal and revision) of the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance of 1999 provided for a time frame for deciding appeals and since the previous division bench has already fixed the appeals therefore, “at this stage we are not inclined to decide these petitions”.
The sections state that the aggrieved may file appeal within 10 days after the judgment and a division bench of high court shall finally dispose of the appeals within 30 days after filing of appeals.
Following the accountability court’s July 6 verdict, the former PM, his daughter and son in-law through their counsel Khawaja Haris and Amjad Pervaiz separately filed appeals against the judgment requesting court to set aside it as well as petitions seeking suspension of the sentences.
Interestingly, initially the court verbally rejected NAB’s objections, including the one which said the suspension petition cannot be heard when appeals against the judgment are already fixed for hearing.
On Monday, the court heard NAB’s arguments for almost four hours, repeatedly directing NAB’s prosecutors Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi and Jahanzeb Bharwana to confine their arguments because the bench cannot give deeper appreciation of the evidence but would only give tentative assessment but later ‘advised’ the petitioners to keep the petitions pending till the appeals are taken up.
When Haris insisted that the court may pass the order without giving any finding on facts, the bench said it would pass ‘an appropriate order’. Later, the court ordered to fix suspensions petitions with the appeals and directed the registrar office “to ensure that pursuant to the direction given by the learned Division Bench, appeals of the petitioners are fixed on the first day after the summer vacation, 2018.”
During the hearing, Abbasi and Bharwana presented arguments against the Sharifs’ suspension petitions saying references were filed in line with the Supreme Court’s orders and appeals against the judgement are already fixed after summer vacations.
They said each criminal case has its own peculiar circumstances and should be decided on its own facts and circumstances, adding that the accused are seeking extraordinary relief but have not shown any hardship in the petitions.
When the prosecutors said the Supreme Court has already dilated upon the facts mentions in the cases, Justice Minallah remarked that the IHC bench would strictly see the accountability court’s judgement and what proofs NAB presented before the trial court.
“Why the matter was sent to the trial court without any conclusive findings? What was trial court supposed to do, to stamp the conviction?” Justice Aurangzeb said. He also asked NAB prosecutors not to read from the minority judgment rendered by the Supreme Court in the Panama case.
Irked by NAB’s arguments at one point, Justice Aurangzeb told NAB prosecutors that they were telling the court that Sharif(s) did not commit corruption but made assets through corruption. “You are saying that by fiction of law it would be corruption but not actual corruption,” he said, adding that “actual charge of corruption [under section 9(a)(4)] is disproved by the accountability court judgment.”
Surprisingly, it emerged during the hearing that neither NAB has not exhibited income tax returns of the former PM nor price of purchase is mentioned anywhere in the evidence and judgment.
Minutes before 4pm, Justice Minallah said every aspect of the case requires deeper appreciation and the bench did not want to give any findings because it would prejudice either party’s case.
“We strictly want to follow the law,” he said, telling Haris that it would be in petitioners’ benefit if the petitions are kept pending and heard with the appeal. When Haris insisted that the court may pass any order, the judge said in view of “practical difficulty” he did not want to render any flawed judgment.
After keeping the order reserved for a couple hours, the bench deferred the petitions after summer vacations. The vacations would end on September 9.
Al-Azizia & Hill Metal case
Meanwhile, an accountability court on Monday decided to hear and conclude the remaining two NAB references against Nawaz Sharif and sons Hassan and Hussain ‘in one go’.
Judge Muhammad Arshad while agreeing with defence counsel Khawaja Hairs’ arguments that the court may hear and decide Al-Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship and other companies references together, summoned JIT head Wajid Zia for cross examination on Aug 27 (Monday).
Earlier, Haris informed the court that another accountability court judge stated twice in his orders that all three references would be concluded together but later deviated from its stance and only concluded Avenfield Apartments reference.
To this, the judge showed his last order to Haris wherein he stated that both the references would be heard and decided side by side, adding that there is not any other accountability court in Islamabad to hear any of the references, if left undecided.