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September 13, 2018

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Avenfield verdict case: No criminal sentencing on assumptions: IHC

ISLAMABAD: Justice Athar Minallah of Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday maintained that criminal sentence could not be maintained on assumptions.

Nawaz Sharif’s counsel completed his arguments on petitions challenging the Avenfield reference verdict against the former prime minister, his daughter, Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar. A division bench of the Islamabad High Court comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb heard the petitions.

Former PM’s counsel, Khawaja Harris, while arguing before the court said he has not seen the statement of Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT)’s head and prosecution’s star witness Wajid Zia regarding the ownership of Avenfield properties.

To this, Justice Miangul questioned: “If the ownership has not been mentioned, what will be its effect,” Khawaja Harris replied: “If a known-source is not known, contradictions can’t be identified.”

Justice Athar Minallah asked, “Is it Nawaz’s stance that his father, Mian Sharif, distributed the property?” Harris replied, "No, his stance is that he has nothing to do with the properties or investments." Justice Miangul asked what is mentioned in the judgment ‘an unnamed person’. “The judgment only mentions guardianship,” Harris responded.

Haris further argued that the children were not under Nawaz’ guardianship, and there is no evidence of it on record. To this, Justice Minallah asked, under whose guardianship the children were in 1993, Nawaz’s counsel said that their grandfather was alive then.

Haris told the court that Nawaz Sharif’s name is not mentioned anywhere on properties. Only his son’s names are mentioned. Mentioning the trial court judgment, Harris said the judgment states that usually children are under the guardianship of their father and owing to that Nawaz is the owner.

To this, Justice Minallah remarked, “Children can also be under the guardianship of their grandfather. Was any evidence provided to show that theywere under Nawaz’s guardianship?”

Haris replied, no, and said that even JIT head, Wajid Zia, has said that there is no evidence or document to prove this. Justice Miangul then asked Haris regarding his earlier statement that Zia did not come across the actual worth of the property in any document provided. “If the worth of the property has not been mentioned in some documents, what will be its effect,” he asked.

Responding to Justice Miangul, Haris said, “If the worth of the property has not been mentioned, how a conclusion can be reached.” Without the knowledge of the known sources of income and the worth of the flats, it was said that Nawaz owns assets beyond his known sources of income.

“Statements of witnesses are present but none mentioned the worth of the property,” he further said. Justice Minallah then remarked, “In our system, whose guardianship are the children under? The burden of proof is on the NAB.”

The bench then asked if all three petitioners have the stance that Mian Sharif did the property settlement and asked if there is any document to prove that Nawaz is the owner of the flats.

“Prosecutors, witnesses and investigators did not produce any such document,” Haris replied. Responding to Justice Miangul’s question whether Nawaz mentioned the Qatari prince during his speeches, Haris said he made no such mention.

Maryam, Capt Safdar’s counsel also presented his arguments before the bench. Justice Minallah asked Maryam’s counsel, Amjad Pervez, and said, “The sentence was not based on the issue of guardianship but an unnamed owner.”

“Trial court declared Maryam as beneficial owner and sentenced her for hiding her father’s property,” he said. Pervez argued, “The indictment was not in line with NAB Ordinance, Schedule 3A. The Supreme Court had said that if it was proven that fake documents were submitted, that matter would be referred to the relevant forum.”

“NAB witness Robert Radley was not an expert in identifying fonts,” he added. “Maryam’s role will only be proved after it is proved that Nawaz is the owner of the property,” the counsel added.

Justice Minallah then remarked, “We have to look over the trial court’s judgment which states it is based on assumptions. A criminal sentence cannot be maintained on assumptions.” At this point, NAB prosecutor Akram Qureshi said, “Only one-sided arguments have been heard so far and we will satisfy the court on all matters.

Justice Minallah then asked him who prepared the chart of Nawaz’s assets. “Answer is based on the evidence, we do not want to delve into details but can briefly overlook the documents available.”

He added, “The JIT said that there are no documents to prove Nawaz’s connection with the flats. Maryam's counsel added, “No evidence was presented against my client and she wasn’t even asked if she was under guardianship.”

When Justice Minallah, in response, asked his client's stance, Pervez said, “She said that her grandfather was her guardian, and he gave all family members pocket money.” After Maryam’s counsel concluded arguments, the bench directed the NAB prosecutor to present his arguments tomorrow. The court adjourned the hearing. NAB prosecutor will start his arguments on Thursday (today).

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