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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice president Maryam Nawaz, Tuesday, filed a new application before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) seeking annulment of the verdict of her conviction in the Avenfield Apartment reference.

Maryam has prayed that she may graciously be "acquitted of all charges and the order of conviction of Accountability Court may kindly be set at naught."

However, the IHC Registrar office raised two objections over her miscellaneous plea seeking acquittal in Avenfield Apartments case. The Registrar said that Maryam's application contains the same request as it was made in her main petition. The office further observed that the accused can only provide fresh grounds in the plea after permission from the court.

A special bench of the IHC comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani will conduct hearing of the PML-N leader's application along with the objections raised by the registrar's office on Wednesday (today).

Maryam filed her application through her counsel Irfan Qadir in the high court against the verdict announced by an accountability court in the Avenfiled Apartments case.

She adopted that entire proceedings resulting in aforesaid conviction both at pre-trial and post-trial stage are "a classic example of outright violations of law and political engineering hitherto unheard of in the history of Pakistan. The element of political engineering is unambiguously established in the instant case especially when the same is placed in juxtaposition with the concurrent violations of law and the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 that are being brought to the notice of this court in the succeeding paragraphs of this application."

The PML-N leader maintained that besides other important legal considerations, the instant application is being filed "in consequence of certain extremely relevant, simple and clear-cut facts which have come to light after the pronouncement of judgment and sentence dated 06.07.2018. These facts which even otherwise are quite well known are being brought to the notice of this honourable court for enabling it to decide this matter expeditiously, justly, fairly and in accordance with law."

In her plea, she also mentioned and quoted an excerpt from the speech of former judge of IHC Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, while addressing the Rawalpindi Bar Association.

She said that the statements made by Justice Siddiqui not only cast enormous doubt on the impartiality of the impugned decision from which the instant appeal has arisen, but it also unfolds the pressures and manipulation which may have led to the orders of the Supreme Court in respect of the filing of the references against the former prime minister and his family, the conduct of the officials of the National Accountability Bureau thereafter and the subsequent trial in the Avenfield reference, which finally culminated in the judgment and sentence dated 06.07.2018.

Maryam stated that it is settled law that justice should not only be done but should manifestly be seen to be done. However, it is evident from the aforesaid facts that the decision rendered in the Avenfield reference is a clear mockery and travesty of justice.

"Hence, the conviction of the applicant is liable to be set aside," added the PML-N leader.

She continued that likewise the malafides or bias of the persons/officials involved in the pre-trial proceedings cannot be easily ruled out also having regard to the facts and circumstances that have come to light in the aftermath of the decision rendered by Judge Arshad Malik. Did the honourable bench not assume the role of a complainant in this case? In this regard section 18 (h) of the National Accountability Ordinance of 1999 has immense relevance in this case.

Maryam further said that apart from the above it is unambiguously clear from a bare perusal of section 18 of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 that the decision making of Chairman NAB or his opinion must be based on positive and affirmative material and on the assurance that necessary legal and procedural safeguards have been observed in the preparation of the reference.

She stated therefore, for chairman NAB to even form a prima facie opinion about anybody's guilt, he needs to verify that there has been compliance with the settled procedure; he needs to obtain proper advice on the contents of the reference from competent and qualified experts; and he needs to ascertain that there is sufficient material before him which satisfies the high thresholds of care and proof expected in the preparation of a reference. At this juncture it is equally relevant to mention that courts across the globe have set out the requirement of high standard of care and proof for the formulation of such matters. In the instant case such essential requirements mysteriously and shockingly have not been adhered to at all.

She also said that the law and facts contained hereinabove have made the case of the prosecution highly doubtful. It is trite law that slightest benefit of doubt must go to the accused what to say of the huge doubt that is now manifesting on the face of the entire proceedings.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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