Thursday, December 07, 2023
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday decided to hear Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif’s appeal against his conviction in the Al-Azizia reference on merit.
A division bench, consisting of Chief Justice Aamir Farooq and Justice Mian Gul Hasan Aurangzeb, heard the former premier’s appeal.
During the case hearing, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) implored the IHC to remand back the appeal to the accountability court.
However, the bench rejected the NAB’s appeal and decided to hear the matter on merit.
The PML-N supremo along with his legal team appeared in the court.
On December 24, 2018, the accountability court sentenced the former prime minister to seven years in jail and imposed a fine of 2.5 million pounds in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference.
Nawaz had submitted an appeal against the decision of the accountability court, requesting the court to annul the decision of imprisonment and fine.
The NAB has taken the stand in the appeal that the accountability court awarded a lesser sentence and it should be enhanced.
During the hearing, Nawaz's lawyer Amjad Pervez Butt informed the court that there are 22 witnesses in this case and most of them are linked to the bank records.
Two of the remaining witnesses are a NAB investigation officer and the other is the head of a joint investigation team (JIT).
He said that it had been established in the last seven years that Nawaz’s father had established Al Azizia mills.
"Nawaz Sharif was not linked to it in any way ever," the lawyer contended.
He said that the former prime minister's “case is better than the Avenfield case in the Al Azizia matter”.
At this, the NAB prosecutor objected to Butt's arguments and said that he should take their other miscellaneous pleas back.
While Butt opposed the NAB prosecutor's plea for remanding the appeal back to the accountability court.
At this, Justice Farooq said that the court has two options, either to decide on merit after observing additional evidence or remand the reference back to the accountability court.
Justice Hassan remarked that Nawaz would be considered an accused if the case is sent back to the accountability court and the trial court would have to decide again.
However, the bench decided to hear the appeal on merit while turning down the NAB prosecutor's request.
After the completion of arguments by Nawaz's lawyer, the court adjourned the hearing till December 12.
NAB prosecutor will give arguments on the next hearing.
During a hearing on November 29, the IHC accepted the appeal of the former prime minister and acquitted him in the Avenfield Apartments reference.
The NAB also withdrew its appeal from the high court against the acquittal of Nawaz in the Flagship reference.
On July 28, 2017, the Supreme Court disqualified former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for not declaring a recieveable salary and ordered NAB to file Avenfield, Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship references following Panama Papers revelations.
While serving the sentence in the Al-Azizia case, Nawaz was diagnosed with an immune system disorder and subsequently allowed to travel abroad for treatment as per doctors' advice.
In December 2020, Nawaz was declared a “proclaimed offender” in both cases for “deliberately” not returning to the country.
After he failed to appear in the IHC during the appeals proceedings, the IHC bench headed by Justice Farooq dismissed his appeals against convictions on June 24, 2021.
In October this year, Nawaz returned to the country after obtaining protective bail in both graft cases and surrendered before the court, after which his appeals were restored.