Islamabad High Court overturns ex-PM Nawaz Sharif's graft conviction - GulfToday

Islamabad High Court overturns ex-PM Nawaz Sharif's graft conviction


Nawaz Sharif waves to supporters as he arrives to Islamabad High Court on Wednesday. Associated Press

Tariq Butt, Correspondent / Agencies


In a massive relief for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Islamabad High Court overturned the conviction of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a corruption case on Wednesday, his lawyer said, removing one of the many obstacles for him to qualify to stand in elections in February.

The verdict was announced by a two-member bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb on Sharif’s appeal against his conviction in the case.

Sharif is currently on bail appealing several convictions for corruption in an attempt to clear his name ahead of elections scheduled in February, with his primary opponent Imran Khan in jail.

"I had left all the matters to Allah and Allah has honoured me today," Sharif told reporters outside the Islamabad High Court.

An official of the Islamabad high court confirmed the acquittal in one case, and Sharif is still appealing a second conviction over investments in steel companies.

Sharif was jailed for 10 years in 2018 for corrupt practices linked to his family's purchase of upscale London flats.

The IHC announced its decision after the national anti-graft body did not contest Sharif's appeal for his acquittal, lawyer Azam Nazeer Tarar said.

As the proceedings commenced, Sharif’s lawyers came to the rostrum. Sharif's lawyer Ahmad Pervaiz contended that the accountability court had acquitted the PML-N supremo from Section 9A of the NAB Ordinance in the Avenfield reference.

Now, only section 9A(5) is remaining in the case which pertains to assets beyond means, the counsel said and then proceeded to read the law out loud in court.

"Under Section 9A(5), the prosecution has to prove certain facts and the accused is required to be shown as a public office holder,” he said and added that the law states that the accused’s income should not match with his assets.

"I think Sharif’s sentence was suspended on the same basis,” Justice Aurangzeb said. "We relied on several judgments of the Supreme Court for the verdict on the suspension of the sentence.”

The judge added that later the apex court had further elaborated on the matter and directed the lawyer to assist the court on this. Pervaiz said the investigation agency has to investigate the source of the assets at the time of their acquisition and compare known sources of income with the value of the assets.

"But this case is such that its contents have yet not been proven,” he said, adding that the investigators failed to prove all the sections of crime. Subsequently, the lawyer submitted date-wise details of Sharif’s assets in court.

At that, the IHC chief justice asked if these assets were requisitioned at the same time or separately. "These properties were obtained from 1993 to 1996,” the lawyer replied, highlighting that nowhere it was written in the reference that these properties were linked to Sharif.

"Whether it is the joint investigation team, National Accountability Bureau [NAB] reports, references or statements, the value of these properties were not written anywhere,” he contended. "There is not a single page that can prove Nawaz had any connection with these properties.”

Pervaiz stated that Wajid Zia, the prosecution witness, had also stated during the cross-examination that he had no evidence to prove the PML-N supremo’s connection with the properties.

"Do these documents include the date of acquisition of the properties and their value?” Justice Farooq asked. The PML-N counsel responded that the details were mentioned in some documents but they did not have any information that could prove Nawaz’s connection with the properties.

Pervaiz pointed out that the most important question was that of the ownership of the properties. "There is no verbal nor documented evidence that these properties were ever owned by Nawaz Sharif.”

The lawyer added that prosecution had to prove Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz were under the patronage of the PML-N supremo. "But there is no evidence for that either,” he argued.

Pervaiz said that there is no evidence the properties were ever under the ownership of Sharif. "Is this all the job of the prosecution?” the IHC chief justice asked, to which the lawyer replied in the affirmative.

At one point, Justice Aurangzeb asked the NAB prosecutor if he was noting the points highlighted by Pervaiz. "He is talking about very important things,” the judge highlighted.

"Yes sir, I am noting,” the prosecutor replied but Justice Aurangzeb cut him short and said that the former did not have a pen in his hands, prompting laughter in the courtroom.

Pervaiz said that the prosecution was also responsible for explaining how the public office was used to acquire "benaami” properties” and read orders issued by the Supreme Court regarding the matter.

"We are aware of the main contents of benaami under the criminal law,” Justice Aurangzeb said and directed the lawyer to assist the court regarding the same under the NAB Ordinance.

Pervaiz contended that the court announced the verdict on "the basis of assumption” and penned the verdict on the basis of generality not evidence.

The court had said Maryam Nawaz was a beneficial owner and also under the patronage of the PML-N leader, he pointed out, adding that it was also written that children were in most circumstances dependent on their father.




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