The Islamabad High Court (IHC) is hearing PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif’s appeals against his convictions in the Avenfield Apartments and Al-Azizia references.
In July 2018, Nawaz was handed 10 years in jail in the Avenfield properties corruption reference for owning assets beyond known income and one year for not cooperating with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), both of which were to be served concurrently.
The Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference pertains to the case in which he was sentenced to seven years in jail on Dec 24, 2018. He was also fined Rs1.5 billion and US$25 million.
The IHC had declared him a proclaimed offender in both cases in December 2020. After leaving for London on medical grounds, Nawaz remained there for nearly four years and only returned to the country last month.
After returning from the UK, the PML-N leader had filed two separate applications seeking the restoration of his appeals against his conviction in both the references.
He had contended that while he was abroad for medical treatment, the pending appeals were dismissed for non-prosecution. The applications requested the court to revive the pending appeals for a decision on them on merit. Last month, the IHC had restored the appeals in question.
At the previous hearing, Nawaz’s counsel Amjad Pervaiz had pointed out loopholes in the Avenfield reference.
He had argued that the Supreme Court had left the National Accountability Bureau with no option but to file the references, adding that the fate of the matter would not have been the same if the anti-corruption watchdog was allowed to act independently.
The lawyer had contended that the bureau had decided to overcome flaws by filing a supplementary reference that could not be filed in light of several judgments of superior courts.
Ahead of the hearing today, Nawaz arrived in court amid tight security along with a number of senior PML-N leaders including Marriyum Aurangzeb, Javed Latif, Ahsan Iqbal and others.
As the proceedings commenced, Nawaz’s lawyers came to the rostrum. Pervaiz contended that the accountability court had acquitted the PML-N supremo from Section 9A of the NAB Ordinance in the Avenfield reference.
Now, only section 9A(5) is remaining in the case which pertains to assets beyond means, the counsel said and then proceeded to read the law out loud in court.
“Under Section 9A(5), the prosecution has to prove certain facts and the accused is required to be shown as a public office holder,” he said. The law states that the accused’s income should not match with his assets, the lawyer added.
“I think Nawaz’s sentence was suspended on the same basis,” Justice Aurangzeb said here. “We relied on several judgments of the Supreme Court for the verdict on the suspension of the sentence,” he said.
The judge added that later the apex court had further elaborated on the matter and directed the lawyer to assist the court on this.
Continuing the arguments, Pervaiz said the investigation agency has to investigate the source of the assets at the time of their acquisition and compare known sources of income with the value of the assets.
“But this case is such that its contents have yet not been proven,” he said, adding that the investigators failed to prove all the sections of crime.
Subsequently, the lawyer submitted date-wise details of Nawaz’s assets in court.
At that, the IHC CJ asked if if these assets were requisitioned at the same time or separately. “These properties were obtained from 1993 to 1996,” the lawyer replied, highlighting that nowhere it was written in the reference that these properties were linked to Nawaz.
“Whether it is the joint investigation team, NAB reports, references or statements, the value of these properties were not written anywhere,” he contended. “There is not a single page that can prove Nawaz had any connection with these properties.”
Pervaiz further stated that Wajid Zia, the prosecution witness, had also stated during the cross-examination that he had no evidence to prove the PML-N supremo’s connection with the properties.
“Do these documents include the date of acquisition of the properties and their value?” Justice Farooq asked. The PML-N counsel responded that the details were mentioned in some documents but they did not have any information that could prove Nawaz’s connection with the properties.
Pervaiz further pointed out that the most important question was that of the ownership of the properties. “There is no verbal nor documented evidence that these properties were ever owned by Nawaz Sharif,” he said.
The lawyer added that prosecution had to prove Maryan Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz were under the patronage of the PML-N supremo. “But there is no evidence for that either,” he argued.
Pervaiz also reiterated that there is no evidence the properties were ever under the ownership of Nawaz.
“Is this all the job of the prosecution?” the IHC CJ asked, to which the lawyer replied in the affirmative.
At one point, Justice Aurangzeb asked the NAB prosecutor if he was noting the points highlighted by Pervaiz. “He is talking about very important things,” the judge highlighted.
“Yes sir, I am noting,” the prosecutor replied but Justice Aurangzeb cut him short and said that the former did not have a pen in his hands, prompting laughter in the courtroom.
Meanwhile, Pervaiz went on to say that the prosecution was also responsible for explaining how the public office was used to acquire “benaami properties” and read orders issued by the SC regarding the matter.