The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has asked as to who will be the pleader for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif when the court will take up appeals against his conviction in Al-Azizia and Avenfield cases given the fact that Sharif has been declared proclaimed offender in both the cases.
An IHC division bench – comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani – was on Wednesday hearing appeals filed both by Nawaz against his conviction in Al-Azizia and Avenfield cases and by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the former premier’s acquittal in Flagship case.
The bench noted that Nawaz Sharif is now a proclaimed offender and the court will have to decide his appeals on merit. The IHC asked NAB to assist the court on this question.
The court could even appoint Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris as his pleader as he is also aware of the case details. However, a final decision in this regard will be taken at the next hearing, the bench noted.
NAB prosecutor Jahanzeb Bharwana requested the court to issue permanent non-bailable arrest warrants for Nawaz Sharif “as he has been continuously absent and not appearing deliberately”.
Earlier, the bench expressed its surprise over absence of NAB representatives from the courtroom and one of the judges quipped if the top accountability watchdog had contracted coronavirus infection.
The court noted that Maryam Nawaz and Safdar Awan – Nawaz’s daughter and son-in-law who were also convicted along with the former PM in the Avenfield case – could file a request for exemption from appearance due to Covid-19 outbreak in the country.
Maryam’s counsel Amjad Pervaiz submitted an application, stating he could not attend the proceeding due to his engagements in the Lahore High Court. Later, the court adjourned hearing of the case till last week of May.
The top accountability watchdog on March 31 moved an application in the IHC, asking the court to take up former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s appeals against his conviction on an urgent basis.
In its two-page civil miscellaneous application, NAB stated that the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 (NAO) ordains that matters falling within the purview of the enactment are to be expeditiously disposed of and decided.
“In this regard the Honourable Supreme Court has very recently directed that the number of accountability courts be enhanced and also issued specific directions for early adjudication and decision of the matters. It has directed day to day proceedings till decision,” it said.
The graft buster noted that while hearing Nawaz’s appeals against his convictions, the IHC on December 2, 2020 declared him proclaimed offender as he did not “care to appear in the court or to attend the proceedings” despite “taking concession and leave of bail and knowledge of the proceedings.”
“It will be worthwhile to mention here that in view of this situation, the court framed legal propositions which need to be addressed and NAB has prepared a response on its behalf in this context and is ready to plead on these propositions before the court.”
NAB said the Al-Azizia, Avenfield and flagship cases involved mega corruption and “therefore, it is submitted with utmost respect and humility that these matters may graciously be ordered to be heard at an early date which is convenient to this honourable to meet the end of justice.”
The graft buster gave an unequivocal undertaking that it will arrange representation on each and every date of hearing as decided by the court.
The IHC on December 2, 2020 finally declared former premier Nawaz Sharif a proclaimed offender after the PML-N supreme leader ignored all summonses and proclamations of the bench that was originally formed to hear appeals against his conviction in two graft cases.