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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday, rejecting Nawaz Sharif's plea to exempt him from appearing before the court and proceed on appeals without his surrender, issued non-bailable arrest warrants for the former prime minister.

A Division Bench of the IHC comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani heard former prime minister's petition filed through his counsel Khawaja Haris in the Al-Azizia and the Avenfield references, and issued his arrest warrants by turning down his petitions.

During the course of hearing, the bench observed that despite orders from the IHC, Sharif did not return to Pakistan and surrendered before the court in the Al-Azizia reference.

Khawaja Haris, argued that a former army chief's counsel was allowed to appear on behalf of the former general in a high treason case regarding his properties.

He contended that in extraordinary circumstances, the accused lawyer could be allowed to appear instead of the accused himself.

He maintained that the trial could not be stopped on the basis of non-appearance of the accused, and the court could appoint a public prosecutor for the accused, and proceed with the trial. The IHC bench asked him to describe the "unusual" circumstances in this case.

Haris stated that the apex court had heard the plea of the fugitive accused of various reasons, and Sharif's case was similar as he spent time in jail after his conviction and filed an appeal.

The bench then asked from Sharif's counsel whether he wanted the court to defer the hearing of the appeals or the court proceed with the matter in the absence of Nawaz Sharif. Upon that, Harris replied that he wanted to defer the hearings.

Additional NAB prosecutor general argued that the petitions filed by Nawaz Sharif were inadmissible.

He stated that "suppose Sharif's request was filed before he was declared an absconder". The NAB prosecutor contended that on this basis, even if it went further, his application would be rejected as the basic rule was that the accused must surrender.

He stated that Nawaz Sharif was "deliberately" disobeying the court's orders and that the court had the power to reject the fugitive's appeal or to appoint a lawyer for him.

He mentioned that the court gave Nawaz Sharif two chances to surrender but he did not turn up.

He adopted that giving relief to fugitives would affect the justice system.

Justice Kayani remarked that the person who took bail neither underwent any surgery nor was admitted to any hospital after going abroad.

The court asked what should happen now when Nawaz Sharif's bail had expired?

Khawaja Haris submitted that his client was not a fugitive since he took permission from the government to go abroad but it was true that Nawaz Sharif's bail had expired.

The IHC bench observed that the bail was for a specific period and this might not have been reported to the Lahore High Court.

Khawaja Haris told the court that his client had provided a new medical certificate, according to which the former premier was not fit to return home.

At this, the court remarked that the medical certificates provided were of a consultant and not of a hospital.

Later, the bench rejected Nawaz Sharif's petitions seeking exemption and deferred the hearing till September 22nd for further proceedings in the matter.

The review petition was filed a day before the deadline given by the IHC to Nawaz to surrender before the court.

The IHC had granted Nawaz an "opportunity" to surrender and present himself before the court by September 10th. The petition included recent medical reports and requested the court to go ahead with the hearings in the presence of the former prime minister's counsels.

Nawaz Sharif told the court that the undertaking that was taken from him had included the condition that the government would first check in on his health.

He added that the federal government had not made any efforts in that matter.

"The federal government does not have any authentic information about my health," he adopted in his petition. He also added that doctors had not issued any certificate that would declare him "fit" to return home. In his petition, Sharif also told the court that he "shall return to Pakistan and personally face all his cases as soon as he regains his health." The medical reports attached with the application also included the advice of American cardiologist Dr Fayyaz Shaal.

The US doctor has said that the former prime minister needs an angiography and a surgery, in case, it is needed.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020