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July 10, 2020

Hanif Abbasi adjudged differently by same court in two years

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July 10, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Special Court for Control of Narcotics Substance, which had handed life imprisonment to former PML-N MNA Hanif Abbasi in ephedrine quota case in 2018, has now found that there is no material evidence available to prove that any of his and his family’s assets were acquired from narcotics business.

The July 2018 judgment announced that he was into narcotics business while the July 2020 order by the same court proves that he made no money from narcotics business. Although the latest decision of the Special Court Rawalpindi precisely deals with Abbasi’s assets which the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) wanted to get declared as having acquired from narcotics business, it raises serious questions about the July 2018 decision of the same court which had controversially convicted the accused in an apparent weak and politically motivated case.

The July 2018 decision was announced by the then judge of the Special Court Sardar Muhammad Akram, whereas the July 2020 judgment is handed down by incumbent Suhail Nasir.

According to the 2018 decision, Abbasi was found guilty of selling 500kg ephedrine illegally to narcotics smugglers. The ANF wanted the forfeiture of all assets of Hanif Abbasi and his family on the ground that his assets were acquired from narcotics business. However, the Special Court in its decision dated July 02, 2020 dismissed the ANF case and ordered the lifting freeze on all assets of Hanif Abbasi and his family members.

The Special Court’s latest judgment said, “What ‘material’ in this case has been produced by prosecution? Answer is no. Simply relying that respondents could not furnish any explanation of where and how they got the assets, this court has been approached by ANF. 'Material' must be there to show a particular fact that assets were acquired from the business of narcotics.”

It added, “The ‘assets beyond means’ and the ‘assets derived through illicit involvement in narcotics’ are two different phrases. If one cannot justify means it will give no presumption that assets were derived only because of the business of narcotics unless there is evidence of unimpeachable character, because there can be many other ways to acquire the assets. If respondents have not justified their means, for that the concerned authority can be the Income Tax Department and also the NAB at least in case of Muhammad Hanif Abbasi, who was holding a public office.”

The court judgment also said that it appears that from the day one ANF has thrown the ball in the court of respondents as according to it presumption is against them and they have to prove contrary. This approach is absolutely beyond the settled principles according to which it is the duty of the prosecution to satisfy the court about the assets derived from sale proceeds of the narcotics, bring believable evidence proving that the assets acquired in the name of convict or his associates or relatives were through drug business.

“Concluding my discussion, I find that there is no force in all the applications therefore the requests for forfeiture of assets of respondents are turned down and all petitions are dismissed. All assets are restored in favour of all respondents,” the judge concluded. Hanif Abbasi, who was jailed to serve his conviction in July 2018, was released on bail in April 2019 by the LHC, which suspended the Special Court's order.