ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has dismissed the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) appeals against the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) decision to suspend sentences awarded to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Safdar in Avenfield corruption reference.
The top accountability watchdog had approached the top court after the IHC on September 19 suspended sentences awarded to the Sharif family by an accountability court on July 6, 2018. The IHC verdict had paved way for release of Sharif and his family members from Adiala Jail.
On Monday, a five-judge SC larger bench, headed by the Chief Justice (CJP) Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, took up the NAB appeals referred to it in November by a three-judge special bench.
The special bench, headed by the CJP Nisar, had raised 17 legal questions pertaining to suspension of the Sharif’s conviction and granting of bail to them during pendency of their main appeal against the accountability court’s decision.
However, the larger bench, instead of considering the 17 questions, asked the NAB attorney to explain under what principles the accountability watchdog was seeking cancellation of bail. “What harm can came your way, if he respondents get acquitted?” the CJP asked NAB Prosecutor Raja Ikram as the proceedings began.
“The person [Nawaz Sharif] is already in prison and there is no allegation about misuse of bail,” said Justice Khosa, the CJP designated. “Though the high court should not have written a lengthy verdict but the IHC itself observed that these are tentative observations,” Justice Khosa added.
When the NAB attorney requested the bench to set aside the verdict, Justice Khosa asked whether he wants that the apex court to do the same mistake by discussing the merit of case. To a query of the bench, Sharif’s counsel said the IHC discussed the aspect of hardship in the verdict.
Chief Justice Nisar expressed concern that the government has yet to make special laws regarding white-collar crimes cases. “I am reminding the government that we have to make new laws to deal white-collar crimes cases,” he said.
Justice Gulzar Ahmad cited example of China where authorities conduct summary trial in graft cases and shoot corrupt people through firing squad. However, Justice Khosa said the country has a constitution and justice will prevail. “No matter whatever is, we will make sure fair trial in every case,” he adds.
Justice Khosa also endorsed grant of bail to Maryam Nawaz, saying one of the respondents was female which might be a ground of hardship case. Later, the bench dismisses NAB’s appeals.
The PML-N senior leaders – Raja Zafarul Haq, Iqbal Zafar Jhagra and Rafique Rajwana were present in the courtroom and they were jubilant over the dismissal of NAB appeals.
Maryam Nawaz also expressed joy over the decision. “I am thankful to Allah Almighty for today’s decision,” she tweeted. The former PM’s daughter, however, added that she will celebrate in true sense when her father ‘comes back home’.
Reacting to the top court’s decision to dismiss NAB’s appeals, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry also took to Twitter and hailed the decision, saying Nawaz Sharif is still is in prison and hence the decision will not have any effect on the present state of the PML-N.
Change in SC’s approach?
Some legal experts say the SC’s Monday verdict shows a visible change in the SC’s approach.
It has been witnessed that the apex court is showing restraint in adjudicating the matters of political leaders in this year (2019). Earlier, the SC also excluded the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report in 42 billion fake money laundering scam.
Some senior lawyers believe that these two decisions will definitely restore the confidence of major political parties on the superior judiciary, which was becoming controversial due to the adjudication of political matters since its July 28, 2017 verdict in Panama Papers case.
A senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader believes that though the verdict will not affect the main appeals against the accountability court’s order, it will definitely have a positive impact on Nawaz Sharif’s petition seeking suspension of sentence in Al-Azizia case reference.