Thursday December 07, 2023

Nawaz lawyers directed to present arguments on Avenfield reference appeal next week

IHC issues directive while hearing appeals filed by PML-N supremo against conviction in Avenfield and Al-Azizia Steel mills corruption references

November 21, 2023
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif arrives to appear before the Islamabad High Court on October 26, 2023. — AFP
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif arrives to appear before the Islamabad High Court on October 26, 2023. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif's lawyers have been directed to present their arguments on the appeal against the Avenfield reference in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on November 27.

The IHC issued the directives during the hearing on appeals filed by the former prime minister against his conviction in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia Steel mills corruption references on Tuesday.

A two-member division bench headed by the high court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, heard the appeals.

At the outset of the hearing Azam Naseer Tarar, who is one of the lawyers of Nawaz Sharif, informed the court that they had developed a sequence for the hearing. He added that they plan to give arguments for the appeal filed against the Avenfield reference.

On this IHC CJ Farooq asked the counsel how much time they would require and the hours he would take to give his arguments.

On this point, Amjad Pervez, who is also part of Nawaz’s legal team, told the court that a decision on the Avenfield reference has been made on merit.

While Tarar added that the decision pertaining to the acquittal of the co-accused is final, as it was not challenged in the Supreme Court.

The IHC CJ remarked that all that happened in the Al-Azizia appeal was the suspension of the sentence. He added arguments on merit were never heard in the case.

Further, the judge asked Pervez about how many hours, and not days, would be required for arguments. The lawyer responded saying he needed four to six hours.

“In the Al-Azizia reference, the appeal was not heard by both the members of the bench,” Justice Farooq said. He told the lawyer to forget about Al-Azizia case for now and only present arguments on Avenfield case.

The judge remarked that the court had questioned NAB during several hearings.

The PML-N lawyer said NAB failed to provide any evidence. “At that time, NAB had also changed lawyers.”

He remarked that the appeal, if necessary, will be conducted on a daily basis. Justice Farooq asked how much time will NAB need to present its arguments.

“We only need half an hour, just to put forward the legal points,” NAB prosecutor said.

The IHC chief justice said it will give one or two hours’ time to the anti-graft body for presenting arguments.

The judge then adjourned the hearing till next Monday — November 27, 2023 and asked Nawaz’s lawyers to give their arguments when the court meets again.

Court issues circular on security

Meanwhile, the court's registrar's office had issued a circular pertaining to the security situation ahead of the hearing, directing the Inspector General of Police Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Dr Akbar Nasir Khan as well as the federal capital's administration to ensure security arrangements.

"In order to ensure that regular cases are not affected and the litigants/leamed counsels appearing in the Islamabad High Court are not disturbed, the ICT Administration/DC/DM and inspector general of police (IGP) Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) shall ensure that proper administrative and security arrangements are made so as to maintain the decorum of the Hon'ble Court," the circular read.

The corruption references

Earlier, the PML-N supremo's appeals were dismissed by the same court after he travelled abroad on account of seeking medical treatment. Sharif returned to the country recently after obtaining protective bail in the cases.

Subsequently, he surrendered before the court, after which his appeals were restored. The National Accountability Bureau also raised no objection to granting bail to the PML-N leader and reinstation of his appeals.

Sharif was sentenced to seven and 10 years in prison by an Islamabad accountability court in the Al-Azizia and Avenfield references, respectively, in 2018. In his appeals, he requested the IHC to set aside the trial court’s decisions. His daughter Maryam Nawaz and her husband Captain (retd) Safdar, who were convicted as co-accused, already have been acquitted by the appellate court.