Maryam seeks annulment of Avenfield verdict

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice president Maryam Nawaz on Tuesday approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to annul the verdict against her in a properties reference.

In July 2018, an accountability court ruled that deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family laundered money in the 1990s to pay for four luxury apartments in Park Lane, central London, drawing on allegations that resurfaced in the 2016 Panama Papers.

Accountability Court judge Mohammad Bashir sentenced Nawaz to seven years’ imprisonment, fined the family £10m and ordered the seizure of the Avenfield properties. She also received an additional one-year sentence for presenting forged documents in court.

The family has long struggled to explain how the Avenfield flats came into their possession. Family members initially told different stories. During the National Accountability Bureau trial, Sharif’s defence claimed that a Qatari investment fund gave the expensive properties to the family to repay a debt owed to Sharif’s father, Mian Muhammad Sharif.

Commentators in 2017 mocked a letter from a Qatari prince apparently testifying to that deal as a rabbit pulled out of a hat.

Sharif and members of his family have denied any wrongdoing, and supporters claim the charges against them are politically motivated.

The three had filed appeals in the IHC against their convictions. The court in September the same year suspended their sentences and released them on bail.

The NAB is now seeking expeditious disposal of the appeals in 30 days.

In her petition, Maryam said the entire proceedings in the reference were a “classic example of outright violations of law and political engineering hitherto unheard of in the history of Pakistan”.

She also referred to the speech made by a former IHC judge, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, on July 21 that year, claiming the spy agencies were influencing high-profile judicial proceedings.

“The ISI is fully involved in trying to manipulate the judicial proceedings,” Siddiqui had said in a speech to lawyers, adding the agency had told the court not to release Sharif and his daughter until after the elections.

“The ISI officials had approached the chief justice asking him to make sure Nawaz and his daughter should not be bailed before the elections,” read the petition, quoting an excerpt from the speech.

Siddiqui was dismissed in October 2018 following a dismissal recommendation by a panel of judges headed by the chief justice, which called Siddiqui’s remarks “conduct unbecoming of a judge of a high court”.

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