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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC), Tuesday, directed the National Accountability Court (NAB) to prepare the details of facts in Al-Azizia reference. A division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani heard the NAB's appeal seeking increase in former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's sentence in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case.

During the hearing, NAB Special Prosecutor General Barrister Usman Cheema requested the court to extend the seven-year imprisonment of Nawaz Sharif in Al-Azizia reference, as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader has been proven guilty by the NAB. To support his argument, he mentioned that under the Article 9(a)(v) of the NAB ordinance, the duration of sentence is 14-year long.

The IHC bench asked the NAB prosecutor that whether the court should hear the NAB's appeal in absence of Nawaz Sharif. In response to it, Barrister Cheema replied that the appeal should be heard if Sharif is not present.

Later, the bench deferred the hearing in this matter till November 3rd after issuing aforementioned directions. In Al-Azizia reference, an accountability court had handed ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif seven years in jail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference in December 2018.

The court also fined Nawaz Rs1.5 billion and US $25 million in the Al-Azizia reference. A disqualification of 10 years from holding any public office is part of the sentences awarded to the former premier. The disqualification will go into effect following his release from jail after serving the seven-year sentence.

However, the NAB had challenged the verdict in Al-Azizia reference and pleaded the IHC to extend the imprisonment sentence of Nawaz Sharif in Al-Azizia Steel Mills case.

In its appeal against the Al-Azizia verdict, the anti-corruption body argued that a seven-year jail sentence for Sharif in the case was too little and should be increased. The appeal stated that the punishment for corruption under Section 9(a)(v) of the National Accountability Ordinance is 14 years in jail.

The reference pertains to the Sharifs being unable to justify the source of the funds provided to set up Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment (HME) in Saudi Arabia, making this a case of owning assets beyond means.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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