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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday asked the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor to prove through evidence that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif purchased the Avenfield properties.

A division bench of Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani heard the appeals of Vice President of Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N) Maryam Nawaz and her husband Captain (retired) Muhammad Safdar against their conviction in the Avenfield reference.

During the hearing, Justice Aamer asked the NAB prosecutor that the bureau has to prove that Nawaz Sharif is the owner of the said flats. He added that the NAB also has to explain how Maryam Nawaz aided and abetted her father Nawaz Sharif in acquiring the Avenfield properties in London in 1993 or 2006 when the trust deed was signed.

The IHC bench also asked the NAB Special Prosecutor, Usman Cheema, to prove through evidence that these properties were acquired by Nawaz Sharif in the 1990s. He further said that if the NAB could not prove the case against the principle accused Nawaz Sharif then there would be no significance of the charges of aiding and abetting.

Opposing the pleas of Maryam Nawaz and her husband, the NAB prosecutor, Usman Cheema, said that the court rejected Nawaz’s plea on June 23, 2021, and in its verdict said that the former premier was given the chance of a fair trial.

At this, the court said that Nawaz Sharif’s appeal was not rejected on merit but was rejected after he became an absconder in the case. Then, the bench asked the NAB prosecutor to prove that Avenfield apartments are the property of Nawaz Sharif.

It added that first prove that flats are property of Nawaz Sharif and only then case of aiding and abetting against Maryam Nawaz can be made. He also said that the court cannot carry on the case on assumptions.

Justice Aamer also made it clear that any Supreme Court observation in the Panama Gate judgment was not relevant to the decision regarding Maryam Nawaz’s appeal against her conviction. He said that the NAB has to prove whether the prosecution proved the case against Maryam before the accountability court.

He asked Cheema about the case against Maryam and her husband, whether the NAB had investigated the matter and whether witnesses were called for an investigation.

Justice Kayani said that the four charges against Maryam are of fabrication, use of Calibri font, misleading the agency, and concealing the actual facts. He noted that Maryam has not said that the property was her, or that she owned it. He added that minus the trust deed, you have no case. The NAB prosecutor asserted that Maryam aided, abetted, and assisted her father in acquiring the properties in 2006. Justice Aamer asked the NAB about Nawaz Sharif’s role in acquiring the properties.

He said that it was basic criminal law that the prosecution must establish its case using evidence even if the accused has admitted to committing the crime. The judge questioned that what evidence the prosecution had to prove the case against Nawaz Sharif. He maintained that the prosecution has to establish the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The IHC bench also asked about the nexus between the two offshore companies and Nawaz Sharif, through “documental evidence”. It inquired who made the payment to acquire the properties in 1993 and the NAB has to prove that the payment to acquire these properties came from Nawaz Sharif. On the argument of the NAB prosecutor that Nawaz Sharif is living in the same apartments in London, the bench remarked that half of Pakistanis are living in others’ homes.

The case of was adjourned until September 29.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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