Would Nawaz seek early hearing of Al-Azizia petition?

Published: July 12, 2019
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ISLAMABAD: Legal experts wonder whether the legal team of the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif will seek an early hearing of their petition against an accountability court’s December, 2018 verdict in Al-Azizia case in the wake of emergence of the accountability court judge’ alleged confessional videos.

Islamabad’s Accountability Court-II Judge Arshad Malik on December 24 last year found Nawaz guilty in Al-Azizia case and sentenced him to 7-year imprisonment but acquitted him in Flagship reference case.

Al-Azizia and Flagship were two of the three cases filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in line with the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s July 28, 2017 verdict in Panama Papers case.
Nawaz Sharif later challenged the accountability court’s order in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) which is scheduled to take up the case on September 18.

However, some legal experts now wonder how the IHC will view the petition in the wake of the controversial videos of the accountability court Judge Arshad Malik that Nawaz Sharif’s daughter – the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz – unveiled last Saturday.

Videogate: Judge Arshad Malik ‘offered Rs500m’ by Hussain to resign after Nawaz verdict

Last week Maryam, flanked by senior most PML-N leaders, had unveiled in press conference a video showing Arshad Malik confessing before a PML-N worker Nasir Butt that he was pressured into convicting Nawaz Sharif in Al-Azizia case sans any evidence.

A day after the press conference, Judge Arshad Malik had issued a statement rejecting Maryam’s claims. He had maintained that the video revealed by the party as evidence was fake and it was in fact the PML-N leadership that tried to bribe and pressure him to rule in favour of its supreme leader.

Later Maryam uploaded two more video showing the judge’s alleged vehicle escorting Butt’s Land Cruiser to his residence and his greeting Butt in presence of the alleged recorder to the secret video.

They videos controversy took a new turn on Friday when Ministry of Law barred Malik from serving as an accountability court judge after the IHC recommended his removal over the scandal.

Addressing a press conference, Law Minister Farogh Naseem, however, clarified that the Al-Azizia sentence will not be overturned unless the IHC decides the verdict was issued under duress.

In this new scenario, it is yet to be seen whether the PML-N waits for two months for the IHC to take up Nawaz Sharif’s plea to overturn the accountability court’s verdict or request the court for an early hearing of the case.

It will also be interesting to see how the IHC views Arshad Malik’s December 24 verdict in the light of recent development and whether it will benefit the incarcerated former premier in any way.

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