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ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor, on Wednesday, prayed before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to dismiss the pleas of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, and son-in-law Capt Safdar Awan (retired).

A division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani heard the appeals of Nawaz, Maryam, and Safdar as well as the NAB’s appeals against them in the Avenfield property, Al-Azizia Steel Mills, and Flagship Investment references.

Senator AzamNazirTarar asked the bench to treat all the parties equally, adding that there was no denying that the decisions in different cases had impacts on others.

Justice Aamer said it was necessary to determine whether the court could hear the case on its merits.

Tarar stated there are examples where the high courts had heard appeals in the absence of the appellant but then the Supreme Court declared it invalid.

Justice Farooq remarked that the NAB had now requested the court to dismiss the appeals of the accused but the same had already been accepted for hearing. He asked what to do if the appellants were no longer available to the bench.

Upon that Tarar said different courts had given opinions in various cases that in this situation the decision could not be announced on merit. He further said in such a situation, the path should be taken, which would not harm anyone’s right. Such cases used to live not only in law books, but also in history, he maintained. Justice Kayani remarked that Nawaz Sharif’s trial was not conducted in his absence instead he was given full opportunity to defend himself.

He added that now there was a matter before the court regarding hearing his appeals in his absence, instead of his trial.

Tararsaid that if the court hears the appeal in absentia and concludes that the sentence was wrong, then the acquittal of the accused would be criticised. Justice Kayani observed that judicial precedents produced by Tarar were only related to accused trials in absence.

Tarar said the trial was held in his (Nawaz’s) presence, so the appeal should also be heard in his presence. If a decision is announced now and is overturned later, what would happen then?

He continued that if the court does not listen to this appeal or dismisses it now, it will neither benefit nor harm anyone. Tarar asked the court to decide the matter according to the law, adding they have to take care of fundamental rights. He argued that the Supreme Court had given relief in many similar cases.

Justice Farooq noted that two co-accused persons were also present in the court and they could pursue their appeals on merit.

He added that Maryam Nawaz and her husband were also convicted under the same evidence.

Tarar said that the court could decide on the other two appeals but there should be a way to facilitate the convict (Nawaz).

He also said all three convicts had recorded their statements under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code, in which the accused refutes the allegations and evidence submitted by the prosecution against him, while their lawyers had also presented their arguments.

He also mentioned that the Supreme Court made it clear in the Ikramullah case that a judgment would only be announced if the [concerned person] is present.

Justice Farooq questioned what would happen if the court announced its verdict only on the appeals of Maryam and Safdar.

To this, Tarar replied that Nawaz could file a separate petition after returning to Pakistan.

Justice Aamer said in the absence of one accused, the case of others cannot be adjourned. Tarar said that it would not matter if the proceedings on appeals were stopped here.

He added that if Nawaz Sharif returned or was brought back tomorrow, let the case go ahead.

Tarar said that former judge Arshad Malik’s video scandal was also linked to the appeals and in future, Nawaz Sharif could claim that it was his case.

At this juncture, Justice Farooq said that the bench would decide the matter according to the law.

Tarar said that copies of some court decisions had been requested from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi. He added that he would present the same on the next hearing as references. Responding to the arguments, the NAB Additional Prosecutor General, Jahanzeb Bharwana, said that Nawaz Sharif’s right to listen had already been dismissed due to his non-appearance.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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