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.