Thursday February 22, 2024

What caused PMLN legal team to change tack?

PML-N’s Rana Sanaullah said that the Al-Azizia case had initially been decided completely without merit

December 08, 2023
A high-level meeting of the PMLN is underway under the chair of supremo Nawaz Sharif on December 5, 2023. — Facebook/PML(N)
A high-level meeting of the PMLN is underway under the chair of supremo Nawaz Sharif on December 5, 2023. — Facebook/PML(N)

KARACHI: Nawaz Sharif’s legal team opting to forego pursuing the Arshad Malik video angle in the Al-Azizia case appeal and going instead for a hearing on merit in the Islamabad High Court is largely a product of the PML-N wanting its legal woes behind it as soon as possible.

Speaking to Shahzeb Khanzada on Geo’s Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath, the PML-N’s Rana Sanaullah said that the Al-Azizia case had initially been decided completely without merit, and asked why the prosecution should be given another chance to again to “improve its story” and “fill in the blanks”.

When asked whether the PML-N believed they would find better relief in the IHC, Rana Sana said they didn’t just believe that but were sure that “we are innocent and this case was without merits, and its verdict was incorrect. Why then should we opt for a path that means countless hearings and appearances? Why not just go for an appeal on merit. We are sure [the IHC] will make the right decision -- and the right decision on merit is that from the get-go this case was not viable to be pursued”.

And what if the IHC verdict goes against Nawaz? To this question, Rana Sana told Shahzeb Khanzada that, while legal experts’ insights into such cases are mostly credible, it was up to the court to give its verdict “and we are hopeful we will get justice; if something happens to the contrary, there is another door of justice we can knock at”.

Rana Sana was also of the view that it will probably not take longer than one day for NAB to give whatever arguments it has, since counsel for Nawaz Amjaz Parvez had -- in Rana Sanaullah’s opinion -- already presented his arguments in court. “I think the verdict in this appeal should come on the 12th”.

Reacting to Thursday’s Al-Azizia case development, lawyer Abuzar Salman Khan Niazi -- who has been part of Imran Khan’s legal team on various occasions -- told a TV channel on Thursday that the way NAB had “investigated, prepared and prosecuted the case, I feel NAB left quite a few loopholes in it. Khawaja Haris’s style of practising law is to not point out the mistakes being made in the trial court since he’s always preparing for an appeal and ensuring [those mistakes] help him during the appeal process.”

Niazi also added that in his opinion, “our criminal justice system cannot be counted on to hold someone powerful accountable since the prosecution even when that person is going through unfavourable times is done in a way that either leaves loopholes or is done in such haste to get the person punished that procedural safeguards are overlooked.”

On whether the case going to a trial court would have been good for the PML-N leader, Niazi responded that the case going back to trial court would not have gone well for Nawaz Sharif. “If the case is sent to trial court, that means it wasn’t prosecuted properly. And if it were to be prosecuted properly that would have meant a burden on Nawaz Sharif to show the money trail. So Nawaz Sharif would want the case to be closed here and now and not go to a trial court”.

Geo’s correspondent Awais Yousafzai, who covers the courts, tells The News that essentially the PML-N did not want the case to go back to an accountability court and then be retried all over again. “They [PML-N] want that in a hearing or two the case is decided on merit. The party also believes its case is strong appeal. As far as the case going back to trial court was concerned, that could have gone either way and more importantly would have also taken a lot of time.”

Yousafzai says that the PML-N is short on time since it wants Nawaz’s case to be resolved before the elections. He feels that it may take just one or two hearings for Nawaz to be acquitted in this case since “NAB doesn’t seem to have much to say and Nawaz’s case is strong.”

Supreme Court Correspondent for the Express Tribune Hasnaat Malik also sees the PML-N’s change in tack as a matter of the party not wanting to go for another trial. He explains that “On the basis of Arshad Malik’s videos, the matter could have been referred for a retrial...and Nawaz wants his acquittal on merit -- and before the elections.” Malik adds that “Surprisingly the IHC itself said that the matter will be heard on merit.”