–Accountability watchdog says high court did not correctly examine evidence against Sharifs
ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Monday moved the Supreme Court (SC) against a decision of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspending sentences given to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and her husband Capt (r) Muhammad Safdar.
On September 19, the IHC had suspended sentences of the three in the Avenfield corruption reference and ordered their release. In the petition, the probe body stated that the high court did not correctly examine the evidence in the case.
The NAB petitioned that the apex court should declare the IHC’s September 19 decision as null and void.
Last month, Justice Athar Minallah suspended the sentences handed to the three by Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir on July 6.
Nawaz, Maryam and Capt (r) Safdar were sentenced to 11 years, eight years and one year imprisonment, respectively, in the Avenfield properties reference.
Ordering their release, the two-judge bench directed the former premier, his daughter and son-in-law to submit bail bonds worth Rs 0.5 million each.
On October 3, a two-judge bench of the IHC in its detailed judgement regarding the bail granted to Nawaz, Maryam and Captain (r) Safdar found that the conviction and sentences handed to the ousted prime minister and others in the Avenfield corruption reference “may not be ultimately sustainable”.
“In hindsight, the sentences awarded to the suspects cannot hold for a long time,” the 41-page judgement read.
However, the verdict — written by Justice Athar Minallah — immediately added that the observation was based on a “prima facie, tentative opinion” that the bench formed after a “plain reading of the [Avenfield] Judgement and tentative assessment of evidence permissible while considering a case for suspension of sentence in terms of section 426 of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure)”.
The detailed judgement pointed to the fact that the NAB was unable to prove the corruption charges, saying: “The petitioners were alleged to have acquired Avenfield Apartments by corrupt, dishonest or illegal means.” Yet, the accountability court in its judgement held that “Prosecution have not brought evidence in respect of [section9(a)(iv) NAO, 1999]. So the accused are acquitted under that section of law”.
“The bureau, in its wisdom, has not challenged the said acquittal,” observes the IHC.
“There is yet another important question which has been raised by the learned counsel for Nawaz Sharif to the effect that there has been no determination of the value of the Avenfield Apartments at the time when they were alleged to have been acquired,” reads the judgement, adding: “There is no mention of this aspect in the judgement.”
The verdict also pointed out that though the prosecution had told the accountability court that Maryam was her father’s dependent, the accountability court’s judgement did not “refer to any evidence which would connect Petitioner No. 2 (Maryam) to have aided, assisted or conspired with Petitioner No. 1 (Nawaz) at the time when Avenfield Apartments were said to have been acquired between 1993 and 1996”.
Further, the judgement stated, “The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) mostly relied on Panama Papers case to argue their points against suspension in sentences.”
Regarding Sadfar’s conviction, the bench noted that he had been convicted for lack of cooperation. However, the verdict declared that “the convictions of both these Petitioners [Maryam and Safdar] depend on whether the conviction handed down to Petitioner No. 1 would remain sustainable under the Ordinance of 1999.