Nawaz granted bail in graft cases; arrest warrant suspended in Toshakhana case

High court says NAB did not raise any objections to the protective bail sought by the PML-N supremo

By
Arfa Feroz Zake
|
Awais Yousafzai
|
Web Desk
Ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif looks out the window of his plane in Pakistan, on February 3, 2017. — Reuters
Ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif looks out the window of his plane in Pakistan, on February 3, 2017. — Reuters

  • Nawaz will land in Islamabad on October 21, says Ataullah Tarar.
  • The former PM will reach Dubai before travelling to Pakistan. 
  • PML-N supremo will address rally at Minar-e-Pakistan, Lahore.


ISLAMABAD: All the legal hurdles were removed on Thursday in the smooth return of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif after he was granted protective bail in two graft cases while his arrest warrant in the Toshakhana case was suspended by an accountability court.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo had approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for bail in Al-Azizia and Avenfield references which approved the pleas, granting bail till October 24.

The IHC announced the verdict, restraining the authorities from arresting Nawaz Sharif on his return to the country on Saturday (October 21).

The high court said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) did not raise any objections to the protective bail sought by the PML-N supremo in corruption cases.

Earlier, an accountability court suspended the arrest warrant issued against him in the Toshakhana case.

A two-member IHC bench comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb heard the Nawaz's bail petitions.

Reacting to the verdict, PML-N President and former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif welcomed the IHC decision, saying his elder brother was disqualified based on a "fictitious and fabricated story",

"The elected Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, was disqualified based on a fictitious and fabricated story. He was implicated in absurd cases and subjected to mistreatment," he wrote on X.  

"Any fair hearing would have established his innocence. Bail is a fundamental right, and we welcome the IHC decision in this regard, hoping that justice will prevail, InshaAllah," the PML-N chief added.

A day earlier, the IHC issued a notice to NAB on Nawaz’s petitions seeking protective bail in corruption references.

The NAB Rawalpindi Bureau had nominated Rafay Maqsood to appear before the IHC bench as a prosecutor.

The three-time former prime minister was declared a proclaimed offender by the IHC in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia cases over non-compliance after he went to London for medical treatment with the court’s permission in November 2019.

In Avenfield and Al-Azizia references, Nawaz was sentenced to 10 and seven years in prison, respectively, by an accountability court in 2018.

His appeals against the convictions were dismissed by the IHC bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Mohsin Akhtar Kayani for non-compliance.

Nawaz’s sentence in Al-Azizia reference was suspended in 2019 by the Lahore High Court (LHC) on medical grounds and he was permitted to fly to London to seek treatment, after which he did not return.

Nawaz's travel plan: Dubai-Islamabad-Lahore

Azam Nazeer Tarar, the head of Nawaz's legal team, said no change has been made in the party supremo's return schedule. He said Nawaz would land at Islamabad airport in a charted plane from Dubai on October 21 and would leave for Lahore after a brief stay.

"Nawaz Sharif's return plan is the same as submitted in Islamabad High Court," he added. Tarar said Nawaz will leave for Lahore after fulfilling legal formalities and attending a consultative meeting in the federal capital.

"Nawaz Sharif will address the rally at Minar-e-Pakistan as per the schedule," he added.

PML-N senior leader and former finance minister Ishaq Dar also confirmed that the party supremo Nawaz will land in the federal capital in the afternoon of Saturday.

"Mian Nawaz Sharif will reach Islamabad in the afternoon of Saturday 21st October 2023 and will later leave for Lahore to address the Jalsa at Minar-e-Pakistan, InnshaAllah," he wrote on X.

Warrant suspended in Toshakhana case

Before the IHC hearing, an accountability court suspended Nawaz’s arrest warrant in the Toshakhana case after the NAB prosecutor raised no objections. 

The decision was announced shortly after the verdict was reserved on Nawaz’s plea.

Accountability court Judge Muhammad Bashir accepted the former PM's plea and said that the arrest warrant would be restored if the accused did not appear before the court on October 24.

At the outset of the hearing today, Nawaz’s counsel Qazi Misbah implored Judge Bashir to suspend the arrest of his client in the case as he was returning to the country and wanted to appear before the court.

Nawaz, the three-time former premier, is set to return to the country on Saturday ending four-year self-imposed exile in London.

During the hearing, Nawaz’s counsel informed the judge that the former PM wanted to appear before the court on the next case hearing fixed for October 24.

Responding to the judge’s query as to why Nawaz did not appear in court, lawyer Misbah said his client was unwell and added that his medical report had been submitted along with the petition.

Meanwhile, the NAB prosecutor didn't oppose the plea, asking the court to suspend the warrant if the accused wanted to surrender.

The prosecutor said the objective of an arrest warrant is to ensure compliance with the law.

Judge Bashir also inquired about the status of other accused including former president Asif Ali Zardari. To which, the lawyers told the court that no arrest has been made so far in connection with the case.

Nawaz's Dubai arrival delayed

The schedule of Nawaz's arrival in Dubai has been changed due to an important meeting in Saudi Arabia, where he arrived last week on his way return journey to Pakistan from London.

Nawaz Sharif was supposed to take a flight to Dubai at 10:30am (PST) today, sources told Geo News. However, the PML-N supremo will now reach the Gulf state later in the evening.

Convictions and court orders

It is pertinent to note that an accountability court sentenced the three-time prime minister in Avenfield and Al-Azizia Steel Mills references in 2018.

The sentence was challenged in the high court which had suspended the accountability court's sentence.

Appeal proceedings — for the petition challenging the sentences — were under proceedings when Nawaz travelled abroad for medical treatment and didn't return to pursue the case.

The PML-N supremo — after he moved to Lahore High Court (LHC) instead of the IHC — was allowed to go abroad for four weeks after his brother and party president Shehbaz Sharif submitted an undertaking in the court assuring Nawaz's return once his health improves.

The IHC — in the absence of the PML-N supremo — threw out the appeals on account of "non-prosecution" instead of adjourning the proceedings for an indefinite period.

The court, while declaring Nawaz as a proclaimed offender, noted that the appeals were rejected on technical grounds and not on the merits of the arguments.

The applicant can once again file an appeal against the sentence upon his return, the court added.