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PML-N says Nawaz 'eligible' to contest polls despite disqualification hurdle

IHC overturns conviction of PML-N supremo in last graft case, providing major boost to his bid to stand in upcoming elections

By Web Desk
December 12, 2023
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif (R) leaves after appearing before the High Court in Islamabad on October 24, 2023. — AFP
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif (R) leaves after appearing before the High Court in Islamabad on October 24, 2023. — AFP

As Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday got a clean chit against the conviction in the Al-Azizia graft reference, the former ruling party's leaders expressed optimism, saying that the ex-prime minister has now "qualified" to contest in the upcoming polls.

Earlier today, the Islamabad High Court overturned Nawaz's conviction in Al-Azizia reference, while announcing the verdict it reserved on his appeal against the trial court's verdict.

The three-time prime minister is eyeing a fourth stint as the chief executive of the country in the general election slated to take place in February 2024.

Though the exoneration granted by the IHC removed one of the last major hurdles for Nawaz's eligibility to stand in the polls, the

lifelong ban on him against holding any public office remains in place.

However, PML-N stalwart Azam Nazeer Tarar claimed that Nawaz is "now eligible" to participate in the elections after today's favourable verdict from the high court.

"Today, Nawaz Sharif stands eligible to contest the elections. He will participate in the polls," the former law minister said following the IHC hearing.

Meanwhile, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb also expressed gratitude over Nawaz's acquittal from "all cases".

"Today, the reality of these false cases has been exposed to the nation," she said, regretting that getting justice took seven years.

Aurangzeb said that these years caused irreparable damage to the country.

"InshaAllah, Nawaz Sharif will become the prime minister for a fourth time with the nation's votes," she said, expressing hope that the PML-N supremo will lead the country to "prosperity".

It may be noted that the former prime minister, who arrived back home from four years of self-imposed exile in London in October, has achieved significant relief after getting acquittal in two graft cases, the Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference and the Avenfield reference.

The biggest hurdle now for Nawaz to contest the upcoming elections is his lifetime disqualification as a parliamentarian.

On July 28, 2017, the Supreme Court had disqualified former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for not declaring a receivable salary and ordered NAB to file references in the two graft cases and the Flagship case following the Panama Papers revelations.

What is Al-Azizia reference?

Hussain, who is the elder son of the former prime minister, claimed that he had received a sum of $5.4 million from his grandfather to establish the steel conglomerate in Saudi Arabia. The payment was made by a Qatari royal on the request of Nawaz. Thereafter, scrap machinery was transported from their Ahli Steel Mills in Dubai to Jeddah to establish Al-Azizia in 2001.

Meanwhile, the JIT constituted to investigate the graft allegations insisted that the real owner of the mills was Nawaz, and it was being operated by his son on his behalf. At that time, Hussain was 29-years-old. The JIT also held that Nawaz received 97% profit as ‘gifts’ from Hill Metals Establishment, another company established by Hussain in 2005, in Saudi Arabia.

Nawaz transferred 77% of the said amount to his daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif. Here as well, NAB claimed that since Nawaz received a large profit from Hussain’s companies, he is the real owner and not his son.

However, during the proceedings, NAB could not substantiate its claim through documentary evidence and instead placed the burden of proof on the accused.