IHC seeks speedy trial on pleas against Sharifs conviction in Avenfield reference

  • NAB gave clean chit to the Sharif family that they were not involved in corrupt practice: IHC tells NAB
  • There was insufficient evidence to prove the charge of acquiring London apartments through corrupt practice: NAB official
Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday directed the defence and prosecution sides in the pleas against the conviction of Sharif family in the Avenfield, to conclude their arguments by Friday.

Resuming the hearing of the case, the court expressed its intention of not dragging the matter pertaining to the suspension of Avenfield properties reference verdict.

A division bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb asked the defence and prosecution if any of them had doubt over the independence and integrity of the court or had apprehension about fair trial.

In such a case, the judges said they were ready to dissolve the bench, however, both sides expressed confidence following which the court formally began the proceedings.

During the hearing, the Additional deputy prosecutor general of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi raised five objections on the petitions filed by the Sharif family. According to him, the appeals against the conviction were already fixed and the convict may seek release at least six months after detention, besides the petitioners did not cite relevant authorities as respondents in the petitions.

The court, however, dismissed the objections and allowed the counsel for the ex-prime minister to continue arguments on the petitions.

The defence counsel argued that NAB did not ascertain the price of Avenfield apartments or the known sources of income of the Sharifs at the time of their purchase.

He opined that the properties belong to the son of Nawaz Sharif. He said even if it was assumed that the apartments were owned by his client, the case against him could be proved only when the prosecution established the discrepancies between the known sources of his client’s income and the price of the said property.

He quoted the joint investigation team head Wajid Zia who had admitted during the cross-examination that no direct evidence of Mr Sharif’s ownership of London properties was available.

Interestingly, Mr Abbasi conceded that there was insufficient evidence with NAB to prove the charge of acquiring London apartments through corrupt practice.

The IHC then asked the prosecution if Maryam being dependent or benamidar of her father could be convicted under sections related to assets beyond means, Dawn news reported.

The court said him that since NAB did not file an appeal against the July 6 decision, it gave a clean chit to the Sharif family that they were not involved in corrupt practice or dishonesty and they were convicted only because they had failed to justify the Avenfield apartments.

While reading out the accountability court’s verdict, the IHC also asked about Maryam’s conviction on a charge of abetting her father for accumulating the assets beyond means when the only evidence against her was a forged trust deed.

The court raised similar questions regarding the conviction of her husband, Captain (r) Safdar who was accused of signing the trust deed that according to NAB was meant to conceal the ownership of London properties.

The NAB prosecutor said it would be appropriate if the court would listen to the arguments of defence counsel Khawaja Haris and Amjad Pervaiz and that the prosecution would conclude its arguments later. Subsequently, the bench asked Mr Pervaiz to conclude his arguments by Aug 15 and directed the NAB prosecution to rebut them by the following day.

For the hearing of two other references pertaining to Al-Azizia Steel and Flagship Investment, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was brought to an accountability court in an armoured personnel carrier – a move chided by his younger brother and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shahbaz Sharif who termed the treatment ‘unfair’.

Sharifs had filed a plea against their July 6 conviction, in which the accountability court had awarded 10 years imprisonment to Nawaz Sharif, seven years imprisonment to his daughter Maryam Nawaz and one year imprisonment to his son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar in the Avenfield properties reference.