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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) was apprised that the case against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz is of “political engineering”; therefore, benefit of doubt be given as there is no conclusive evidence against her.

A division bench, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, on Wednesday heard the appeals of Maryam Nawaz and her husband Captain (retired) Muhammad Safdar against their conviction in Avenfield Apartments, and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) application, seeking hearing of the case on a daily basis.

Former Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Irfan Qadir, representing the PML-N leaders, contended that Maryam had been persecuted at the behest of “certain people”.

He was arguing on the maintainability of the latest application of the PML-N vice president.

Qadir said that though the NAB earlier had filed an application seeking the conclusion of the appeals within 30 days, but two days ago it filed another application seeking cancellation of Maryam’s bail.

He submitted that the legal procedure was not followed in the Avenfield apartments’ reference, which he said was not based on any evidence and saw numerous mistakes being committed at the pre-trial stage.

He maintained that the NAB wanted to send Maryam back to jail but there was no reason to imprison an accused suspected of a white-collar crime.

Upon that Justice Farooq remarked that the NAB wanted to send every accused to jail.

He added the NAB officials were behaving like an SHO as they wanted to arrest everyone without any regard for evidence.

Qadir informed the court that Maryam’s new application had talked about political engineering in her case, saying “certain incidents took place which gave rise to many doubts and suspicions.”

The counsel argued that the accountability court did not have the authority to hear the Avenfield case.

“This is a case in which no evidence exists,” he said, adding that the legal procedure had not been followed in the case.

He noted that in a criminal case, the benefit of even the smallest doubt was given to the suspect.

“In the Avenfield reference, there is not little but a lot of doubt,” he remarked.

Qadir, while arguing referred the case of son of former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry – Arsalan Iftikhar.

He said: “I don’t want to malign any state institution, but there shouldn’t be any hurdle in the pursuit of justice.”

He said the court should ask NAB against how many families’ references pertaining to public office holders have been filed?

He said the Supreme Court said that references against the Sharif family should be filed.

He said only the NAB chief can approve references under the NAB law, adding that the apex court cannot use the authority granted to the NAB chief.

“If the formation of Joint Investigation Team was so important then it could have been formed by the chairman NAB and not the apex court.”

He questioned three references against Sharifs filed by the NAB, saying the watchdog could have added “100 properties in a single reference”, but there should have been one reference only.

“It is such a massive irregularity that my client can be exonerated on the basis of it today,” he added.

Qadir said Maryam had been accused of being a beneficial owner of the Avenfield flats in London.

Referring to a document signed by Maryam written in Calibri font, the counsel said: “A lot of people made fun of the Calibri font [issue]. Today I will tell you its reality as well.”

Maryam was declared the beneficial owner of the properties based on a trust deed, Qadir said, adding that a “big mistake” had been committed by the Supreme Court, accountability court, Panama Papers joint investigation team, and the NAB.

Justice Kayani sought the document showing the ownership of the Avenfiled flats, to which Qadir responded that no document existed that showed Maryam and Nawaz as the apartments’ owners.

The bench, directing the NAB prosecutor to argue on the maintainability of Maryam’s application on the next date, adjourned the hearing until November 17.

Maryam Nawaz on October 5 had filed a new application seeking annulment of the verdict of her conviction in the Avenfield Apartment reference.

In her application, Maryam prayed before the court that the applicant/appellant may graciously be “acquitted of all charges and the order of conviction of Accountability Court may kindly be set at naught.”

She adopted that the 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 honourable 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.”

The anti-corruption watchdog yesterday (October 12) filed a petition seeking the cancellation of post-arrest bails granted to Maryam Nawaz and Captain (retired) Safdar in the Avenfield properties reference.

The NAB said that Maryam and Safdar misused the bail concession.

It added that Maryam delivered “hate speeches” against the NAB and the suspects’ conduct caused pressure on the witnesses seeking to testify against them.

The bureau added that its Lahore office was attacked during the PML-N leaders’ appearance before investigation officers.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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