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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) reserved verdict on the appeals 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, on Wednesday, heard the appeals of ex-PM Nawaz Sharif, PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz, and Muhammad Safdar Awan as well as the NAB’s appeals against them in the Avenfield property, Al-Azizia Steel Mills, and Flagship Investment references.

Senator Azam Nazir Tarar, who has been appointed amicus curiae in the instant matter, contended that the court has the power to dismiss the case or keep it pending. However, he added that the right to a hearing of an accused is protected under the Constitution.

Justice Farooq told the senator that he is appearing before the court as amicus curiae and not counsel of any party. You are supposed to assist the court; therefore, argue on the legal points, he said. Tarar argued that there are many judgments of the superior courts of Pakistan that the pleas of people who were not present for their hearing were rejected without arguing the case’s merits. He then cited the judgment of Justice Faisal Karim, wherein, it was held that the appellant must be heard. He said in the Hayat Buksh case, the apex court had dismissed the appeals of those people who were not before the court. Upon that Justice Kayani remarked that an accused’s rights are not affected even if their plea is rejected.

“Pleas rejected on the basis of merit can still be appealed in the apex court,” the judge maintained. The senator said that if an accused is not before the court and his appeal is dismissed then definitely he will again file an appeal. He said the Dhaka High Court closed a case in the absence of the accused, adding the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Lahore High Court had followed the Dhaka High Court judgment.

Tarar said how could trial of an accused continue, if the accused has not surrendered before the court. Justice Kayani questioned if the appellant is declared a proclaimed offender (PO) then how would he surrender? The counsel pleaded that if the accused is PO and he is not surrendering before the court then his appeal will be dismissed. He said the Supreme Court had dismissed an appeal when the PO did not surrender. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB)’s prosecutor prayed before the Court to dismiss the pleas of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The NAB prosecutor, Jahanzeb Bharwana, argued that the IHC had provided an opportunity to ex-PM Nawaz Sharif to surrender, but he did not comply with the order. He said this Court had granted him bail by suspending the trial court’s verdict. Justice Kayani observed that the appellant has two choices either to again file an appeal in the Supreme Court or the High Court. Justice Farooq noticed that there is a difference between the appeals i.e. in one appeal, only the appellant is a party, while in the second appeal there are other parties.

The NAB prosecutor said the counsels of the other two parties can plead cases of their clients. Justice Farooq asked the prosecutor that if he meant to say that there is no difference between the appeals; therefore, both the appeals should be dismissed.

Bharwana apprised that in the Avenfield reference, there are three appeals, while in the Al-Azizia case, there are two appeals. Justice Farooq then inquired what does the NAB want? The prosecutor asked the bench to dismiss one appeal and keep the other pending. The bench, after hearing the arguments, reserved the judgment. On June 9, the IHC had given more time to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer to assist it in how to proceed further with his client’s appeal against the Avenfield case judgment as he was abroad. The court inquired as to how it could proceed further in the case in the absence of the appellant.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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