–Justice Minallah says court will give verdict even if NAB prosecutor does not conclude his arguments on Wednesday
ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Athar Minallah on Tuesday issued an order that a verdict will be announced on the Sharif family’s pleas challenging the Avenfield reference against them on Wednesday in case the prosecutor for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) fails to conclude his arguments in the case.
A two-judge bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb heard the petitions filed by former premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (r) Safdar.
During the hearing, Justice Minallah remarked that even if the NAB prosecutor does not conclude his arguments, a verdict will be given in the case.
“Seemingly, the accountability court’s verdict was based on the assumption that the Avenfield properties are occupied by the children but owned by Nawaz,” Justice Minallah said.
The IHC judge further said, “When the second Panama judgement was announced it was binding on all judges but the first was not declared binding.”
Justice Minallah also said that all judges signed the second Panama Papers judgement. Meanwhile, Justice Aurangzeb added, “The first judgement did not disqualify Nawaz and it was issued by minority judges.”
In response, the NAB prosecutor stated that “this is no ordinary case” and pertains to a “web of numerous companies”.
The prosecutor said, “It was not possible to investigate this case in such a short period and any observation by the court in this regard will not be appropriate.”
Stating that parents are “natural supervisors”, the lawyer asserted, “The burden of proof of ownership of flats lies on this.”
Furthermore, the NAB prosecutor said that “Nawaz Sharif stated that Hassan and Hussain can tell about the ownership although as father and supervisor, the burden of proof lies on him,” adding that “the expenses are not on record”.
To this, Justice Minallah remarked, “The defence says that Panamagate JIT head and prosecution’s star witness Wajid Zia did not present a chart on the known sources of income. Even the investigating officer said he does not know who prepared the chart.”
Addressing the lawyer, Justice Minallah said, “You indicted them stating that Nawaz is the owner of the properties and not Maryam Nawaz.”
Justice Minallah then said, “Should we announce a judgement based on the criminal law on assumptions? This assumption that the property is occupied by the children but the ownership is Nawaz’s?”
“Seemingly, the accountability court’s verdict was based on assumptions,” he observed.
“If Nawaz is the owner then how was Maryam sentenced under Section 9(A)(IV),” questioned Justice Aurangzeb, adding that there cannot be two types of ownership at one time.
“Was Maryam the rightful owner or only on paper?”
To this, the NAB lawyer said, “Maryam Nawaz was an accomplice.”
“The daughter should not have been sentenced under Section 5,” Justice Aurangzeb observed. He then asked if “Maryam’s assets are beyond her known sources of income” to which the NAB prosecutor responded in affirmative.
Furthermore, it was stated that the NAB prosecutor was to conclude his arguments on Tuesday, but instead, it was requested that the hearing is adjourned till Wednesday.
Justice Minallah then remarked, “This is an important case and needs to reach a verdict as soon as it can.” He then concluded the hearing by telling the NAB prosecutor that a verdict will be announced on Wednesday.
“You have presented good arguments and if you do not appear then Justice Bharwana will present arguments and even if they are not concluded we will announce a verdict tomorrow.”
The court then adjourned the hearing till September 19.
On September 15, NAB moved the SC in a bid to prevent the Islamabad High Court (IHC) from its decision on a plea from the Sharif family seeking the suspension of the Avenfield verdict.
Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Captain (r) Muhammad Safdar had moved the IHC to suspend the verdict in the Avenfield properties reference after they were convicted by Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir on July 6, 2018.
The accountability court had sentenced Nawaz to 10 years in prison, Maryam to seven years and handed a one-year sentence to Capt Safdar.
Following the conviction, the Sharif family had filed several petitions seeking suspension of their sentences besides filing appeals challenging the convictions. NAB, however, raised objections to the court’s hearing of the petitions first instead of appeals, saying they were filed under “an irrelevant section of law”.
Earlier, the high court had turned down a NAB petition wherein it sought dismissal of Sharif family’s plea, saying it was not being made a party which made the petitions non-maintainable. Besides grilling NAB over lack of evidence in the Avenfield case, the high court had also transferred remaining two references against Nawaz Sharif — Flagship and Hill Metal — to the court of Judge Arshad Malik after Khawaja Haris filed a plea in the court.