IHC also declares Sharif a proclaimed offender

NAB claims former premier’s appeals against conviction now merited to be dismissed


Rizwan Shehzad   December 02, 2020
ISLAMABAD:

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday finally declared former premier Nawaz Sharif a proclaimed offender after the PML-N supremo ignored all summonses and proclamations of the bench that was originally formed to hear appeals against his conviction in two graft cases.

An accountability court in Islamabad has already declared the former PM, who has been in London since November 2019, a proclaimed offender due to his continuous absence from hearings of a gift repository – Toshakhana – case.

The IHC division bench – comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani also issued show cause notices to the people who had acted as guarantors when the same court had granted bail to Sharif in Avenfield and Al-Azizia references.

According to IHC officials, the bench will issue a short order in this regard on December 3 [today].

Before declaring Sharif a proclaimed offender, the bench recorded the statements of three witnesses – Foreign Office Europe-I Director Mubashir Khan and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials Ijaz Ahmed and Tariq Masood – and completed proceedings of the proclamation process.

The witnesses exhibited different documents, including official letters and advertisements published in different newspapers in Pakistan and London, during the testimony.

Justice Kayani at one point remarked that propriety demands that the court also look at the conduct of the Islamabad Accountability Court-II former judge Arshad Malik.

Judge Malik convicted Nawaz Sharif in Al-Azizia reference on December 24, 2018.

However, he was sacked over misconduct on the basis of an investigation into a series of videos released by Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz in July 2019. In the videos, the judge could be seen confessing to a PML-N worker Nasir Butt that he convicted Nawaz Sharif under duress.

“We can’t shut our eyes to the affidavit submitted by judge Arshad Malik [after emergence of the videos],” Justice Farooq added.

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Prosecutor Jahanzeb Bharwana contended before the bench that propriety demands that the IHC bench first decides all the miscellaneous applications including one with regard to judge Arshad Malik.

When Justice Farooq asked the NAB prosecutor as to what will be the fate of the appeals filed by Nawaz Sharif against his convictions, Bharwana claimed that these appeals “merited now to be dismissed.”

“Give us legal points,” Justice Farooq said, adding that Nawaz Sharif’s absconding was one thing but the court will have to follow law and see different aspects of appeals.

“You will be the sole warrior now,” Justice Farooq told Bharwana, “the burden is double as no one will be here from the other side; discharge it properly as we have to fulfill legal requirements.”

Bharwana was also asked to assist the court if criminal appeals – filed by Nawaz Sharif and other accused Maryam Nawaz and Captain Safdar –are to be attached or dealt separately.

“Merits are totally different and they should be taken separately,” Bharwana contended.

The bench, however, noted that the cases of Sharif and his family members were interlinked and the court will have to look into it.

While asking Bharwana to assist the court, the bench also asked him to keep former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharaf’s case in view as he was also declared a fugitive.

The court will take the cases of Sharif, Maryam and Safdar on December 9.

The IHC division bench formed in August this year to hear Nawaz Sharif’s appeals against his convictions in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia references had given the former PM 15-day time to appear in the court.

The bench on September 15 issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Nawaz Sharif after he chose not to appear before the bench, citing health reasons.

Later, the bench started the process of declaring him an absconder and ordered authorities to publish advertisements — or proclamations — in London-based newspapers, summoning Sharif by Nov 24.

The IHC had noted that if Nawaz Sharif did not appear in the court within 30 days after publication of the ads, he would be declared an absconder. It had also ordered the authorities concerned to paste the notice outside his London and Lahore residences.

On July 6, 2018, Islamabad Accountability Court-I sentenced Nawaz Sharif to 10 years in prison and fined him £8 million after he failed to provide money trail for the Avenfield flats, allegedly owned by his children.

Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz, seen as his heir apparent, had also received a seven-year sentence and fined £2 million while her husband Captain Muhammad Safdar was awarded a one-year sentence. They were barred from engaging in politics for 10 years.

On September 19, 2018, IHC suspended the sentence of Sharif and others in the London flats case.

On December 24, 2018, however, Sharif was found guilty of in Al-Azizia reference and the accountability court sentenced him to seven years in prison while also imposing a fine of $25 million.

Sharif was immediately arrested and shifted to jail. In October 2019, Sharif was released on bail due to health issues and on November 19, 2019, he flew to London for medical treatment.

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