IHC defers Nawaz petitions against his conviction till tomorrow

ISLAMABAD  -  The Islamabad High Court (IHC) yesterday heard PML-N leader and three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s petitions against his conviction in the Avenfiled and Al-azizia references and de­ferred the hearing for tomorrow for further proceedings.

The two-member bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurang­zeb conducted the hearing.

During the two-hour hear­ing, Amjad Pervaiz and former attorney general Azam Nazeer Tarrar represented Nawaz Sharif. Monday’s hearing most­ly revolved around interim and Supplementary referenc­es filed by NAB on the direc­tions of Supreme Court back in 2017 after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif.

Amjad Pervaiz told the Islam­abad High Court (IHC) that the apex court directed the Nation­al Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file a reference against Sharif.

It had also added Robert Fred­ley Calibri statement against Maryam Nawaz and there was no material evidence added by NAB in those references

Drawing upon the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Panama Pa­pers case, which led to Nawaz’s disqualification, the counsel re­minded the court of the estab­lishment of a joint investigation team (JIT) in response to the verdict.

Justice Miangul Hassan ques­tioned the relevance of Pervaiz’s arguments. In response, the counsel provided the court with details about the JIT’s forma­tion and members. He informed the IHC that the JIT submitted a comprehensive 10-volume re­port to the apex court in July 2017. Following the presenta­tions of the involved parties, the court issued its final verdict on July 28, 2017, disqualifying Nawaz. The judge sought clar­ity from Pervaiz regarding the specific orders issued by the SC. He inquired whether the SC had provided directives to the NAB chairman. Pervaiz affirmed that the apex court had issued explic­it instructions to NAB to file a reference against Nawaz Sharif.

He specified that the SC had ordered the NAB to file refer­ences against Nawaz, his daugh­ter Maryam, sons Husain and Hasan, and Captain (R) Safdar in the Avenfield case, while the Al-Azizia and Flagship refer­ences were to be filed against Nawaz and his two sons.

The lawyer emphasized that according to the apex court’s or­ders, the NAB was authorized to file supplementary references based on newly discovered evi­dence. Justice Aurangzeb asked about the events between the SC order and NAB’s filing of the references. He inquired wheth­er all the three references were filed on the same day, to which Pervaiz confirmed, adding that the filing occurred in Septem­ber 2017.

The judge further asked whether the former prime min­ister was present in the country when the references were filed. Pervaiz clarified that his cli­ent was in the United Kingdom along with his daughter.

Justice Farooq sought clari­fication regarding the indict­ment of the suspects. He asked whether the indictment was limited to the Avenfield refer­ence or extended to all three cases. Pervaiz explained that the indictment occurred in all three cases on the same day, but the proceedings were handled separately at a later stage.

The counsel informed the IHC that the prosecution had with­held a copy of volume 10 of the JIT report. The Chief Justice ex­pressed his surprise, stating that at least some details from volume 10 should have been presented during the trial.

However, the counsel main­tained that no document from volume 10 had been brought on the record, acknowledging that a few questions were answered during the interrogation.

Justice Aurangzeb asked about Nawaz’s acquittal in one of the references. The NAB prosecutor confirmed that an accountabili­ty court had acquitted Nawaz in the Flagship reference.

The judge inquired that whether NAB had filed an ap­peal against the acquittal. The NAB prosecutor responded af­firmatively, but clarified that notices had not yet been issued, and the case was not yet sched­uled for a hearing.

Nawaz’s lawyer contended that accountability Judge Mo­hammad Bashir had issued a verdict on one of the referenc­es, followed by a plea to transfer the remaining cases to another court. He also raised questions on the NAB’s reliance solely on the JIT report for filing referenc­es against Nawaz.

Justice Aurangzeb expressed scepticism, asking whether NAB had exercised any independent judgment in the matter. Pervaiz asserted that NAB’s actions were limited to issuing a call-up notice to Nawaz Sharif. He criticized the bureau for failing to present any “concrete evidence” beyond wit­ness statements. He further ar­gued that the call-up notice had no bearing on the investigation. The judge sought confirmation from Pervaiz that NAB had not conducted an independent in­vestigation. However, the law­yer said that no document from the volume was brought on the record, adding that only a“few questions were answered during the interrogation”.

Nawaz’s lawyer then read out the text of the indictment in the Avenfield reference. He said that Nawaz had denied wrongdoing after the charges were framed. He said that after the indict­ment, an accountability court had sought evidence from NAB, which first presented a prelim­inary report before submitting a detailed one. He said that the preliminary investigation re­port only referred to the SC ver­dict, adding that the charges against Nawaz were incorrectly framed. He said the statements of six out of the 18 witnesses were recorded in the Avenfield reference when NAB filed a sup­plementary reference.

The IHC bench asked, did any witness give a statement after which the NAB decided to file supplementary reference? To this, Pervaiz said that the first witness produced records from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP). He argued that while the wit­nesses were being cross-exam­ined, the NAB decided to bring a supplementary reference.

The lawyer further said that the trial court announced its verdict in the Avenfield refer­ence in the absence of Nawaz and Maryam. He added, “Mian Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz were in London to visit Kulsoom Nawaz.”

He said that Kulsoom was suffering from late-stage can­cer at the time. He said that the PML-N had asked the trial court to change the date of the hear­ing but the application was re­jected the same day.

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