IHC reserves judgment in Sharif plea

Islamabad: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday reserved judgment on maintainability of appeal filed by Nawaz Sharif challenging the Al-Azizia reference verdict of the Accountability Court. A two-member bench comprising of Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Amir Farooq heard the petition and remarked that until the hearing of the appeal, the petitioner s sentence could not be suspended. Sharif’s counsel Khawaja Harris told the court that the appeal was not set for hearing yet  perhaps  due to holidays. Sharif’s legal team had last week pleaded with the court to suspend his sentence and release him on bail. Earlier, the IHC’s registrar office had raised some administrative objections to the petition, however it was fixed for hearing after some delay. In the petition, he has claimed that the accountability court’s judgment was based on ‘misunderstanding’ and ‘misinterpretation of the law’, and the evidences were addressed inappropriately. The application further remarked that the grievances of the accused were not heard and addressed. Furthermore, he has requested the court for a bail until the application of suspension is not heard. The accountability court on December 24 convicted Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference and sentenced him to seven years in prison, besides imposing a fine of Rs1.5 billion, and acquitted him in the Flagship reference case filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Mega corruption scandal. Contrarily, the NAB has also filed two appeals in the IHC, the first has sought an extension in Sharif’s sentence from seven to 14 years, and the other has challenged his acquittal in the Flagship Investment reference. In the 131-page judgment written by the accountability court judge Arshad Malik, reasons of his conviction were mentioned. It said that the prosecution has successfully established all the ingredients of the offence of corruption committed by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and that he has failed to provide legal money trail of his assets. Later, Sharif was arrested from the premises of the accountability court. After spending a night at the Adiyala Jail in Rawalpindi, he was shifted to the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore. Earlier, the NAB had filed three cases — Avenfield, Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, and offshore companies, including Flagship Investment Limited — against the Sharifs on the Supreme Court’s directives in the July 2017 Panamagate verdict. The trial commenced later in September that year. The three-time Premier and his sons Hasan and Hussain were accused in all the three graft references whereas his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar were accused in the Avenfield reference only. On July 6 in 2018, the accountability court had convicted him, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in law Safdar in the Avenfield reference and sentenced them to 10 years, seven years and one year in prison, respectively. Sharif and his daughter were arrested on July 13 upon returning from London. However on September 19, an IHC division bench comprising of Chief Justice Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb suspended his sentence. Later, the NAB filed an appeal against the ¬suspension of sentence, which is pending adjudication before the Supreme Court.