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December 9, 2019

Four cases of opposition politicians to come up before superior courts

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December 9, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The superior courts take up four important cases involving top opposition politicians from Monday onwards.

The first petition on which the Lahore High Court (LHC) will open hearing on Monday has been filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President and daughter of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam.

She sought grant of one-time permission to travel toLondon to see her ailing father and requested the LHC to order removal of her name from the Exit Control List (ECL) and return of her passport.

Maryam was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on August 8 in connection with the investigations into the Chaudhry Sugar Mills. On November 4, she was granted bail by the LHC, which ordered her to furnish two surety bonds worth Rs20 million, and deposit an additional Rs70million in cash and surrender her passport to secure her release.

She argued in her latest plea that her father’s health was critical and she was under unexplainable stress because of her inability to be with him at a time when he needs extra care. She said her father is dependent on her. She also mentioned the death of her mother, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, who passed away in London last year, while she accompanied her father who returned to Pakistan to serve a sentence, awarded by an accountability court in a NAB reference.

She said she and her father regret to this day that they were not by Kulsoom Nawaz’s side while she was on her death bed. She also contended that NAB’s or the government’s apprehensions about her absconding “does not appeal to reason in view of her track record”.

At the same time, a three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, takes up on Tuesday a review petition filed by Nawaz Sharif against its judgement in the video scandal involving accountability court judge Arshad Malik.

He pleaded that the verdict was per incuriam [through or characterised by lack of due regard to the law or the facts] as it was passed without jurisdiction. He asked the apex court to recall its Aug 23 order in which it held that the video clip concerning Arshad Malik could benefit the petitioner if its genuineness was established and was properly produced before the IHC in the pending appeal against his conviction.

Interestingly, NAB and the defence counsel seemed to be on the same page in a related case before the IHC with regard to the scrutiny of the judge’s video in which he confessed to have convicted the ex-prime minister under duress. The video had been screened during a press conference by Maryam. When the IHC had asked NAB’s prosecutor about the former premier’s application asking for determining the authenticity of the secretly recorded video in his appeal against his conviction in the Al-Azizia reference, the NAB counsel had admitted that the video had not been made part of the court record so far and said the matter needed to be inquired.

The defence counsel had explained to the court that both the prosecution and defence want this court to decide the matter since it was in the interest of both sides. He added that he wanted this in the interest of defence while NAB wanted the truth for the prosecution’s point of view. The NAB prosecutor endorsed the argument of the defence counsel but argued that since the same Judge, Arshad Malik, had acquitted Nawaz Sharif in the Flagship Investment reference; therefore, the prosecution’s interest was to see if the judge had acquitted the accused with free mind or otherwise.

In his petition before the apex court, the former premier contended that the audio or video recording was admissible under Article 164 of the law of evidence besides the law did not impose any conditions that only such evidence obtained through modern devices would be admissible which were recorded by persons whose part of routine duties was to record audio or video.

The petition said such observations reflected as if the court was saying that the process of trial and evidence recorded during the trial were not affected by the conduct of the trial court judge. It contended there was no precedent or support of law to micro-manage the jurisdictional functions of the appellate court (IHC) and that too in a prospective or anticipated list of cases.

The third critical case will come up before the IHC on Dec 18 when a two-judge bench comprising Justice Amir Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani will open hearing on Nawaz Sharif’s appeal against his sentence in the Al-Azizia reference. The NAB’s appeal for an increase in the Al-Azizia reference sentence will also be take up on the same day.

The former prime minister, who is currently in London for medical treatment, was handed a seven-year prison term and fined Rs1.5 billion by judge Arshad Malik in the Al-Azizia reference filed by the NAB on the direction of the Supreme Court contained in the Panama judgement.

In July this year, Maryam unveiled the video showing Judge Malik confessing that he was “pressurized” into convicting Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia case sans any evidence following which the judge was barred by the law ministry from serving on the post.

However, Arshad Malik, in an affidavit submitted to the IHC, denied the allegations and claimed that he was “blackmailed” and offered a hefty bribe by the Sharif family to acquit the former premier.

The fourth important petition submitted by all the opposition parties to the Supreme Court, which relates to the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), is yet to be fixed for hearing.

They requested the court to pass an appropriate order in the wake of an impasse between the two consultees --Prime Minister Imran Khan and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif--on these nominations and pointed out that the absence of appointments has rendered the ECP dysfunctional.