ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC), Wednesday, issued notices to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the petitions moved by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid Nawaz Sharif for protective bail in Al-Azizia and Avenfield references.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb heard protective bail applications and issued notices to the anti-corruption watchdog.

During the hearing, PML-N chief’s counsel Amjad Pervez requested the bench to grant protective bail to his client as he wanted to surrender before the court.

The three-time former prime minister was declared a proclaimed offender by the IHC in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia cases over non-compliance after he went to London for medical treatment with the court’s permission in November 2019. In Avenfield and Al-Azizia references, Nawaz was sentenced to 10 and seven years in prison, respectively, by an accountability court in 2018.

His appeals against the convictions were dismissed by the IHC bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani for non-compliance. Nawaz’s sentence in Al-Azizia reference was suspended in 2019 by the Lahore High Court (LHC) on medical grounds and he was permitted to fly to London to seek treatment, after that, he did not return.

Nawaz’s legal team moved the protective bail petitions in the IHC to restrain the authorities from arresting him when he returns to Pakistan on October 21.

Amjad Pervez informed the court that his client was seeking protective bail and gave reference of previous judgments and added that in the past, absconders were granted protective bail in order to surrender before the court.

He added that the court provides an opportunity whenever someone wants to surrender before it. He contended that Nawaz had not taken undue advantage of his bail.

The counsel mentioned that the court had also provided PTI Chairman Imran Khan with protective bail earlier. He also maintained that Nawaz’s conviction was handed down when he was not in the country.

During the proceedings, the NAB prosecutor said that the bureau did not have any objections if Nawaz wanted to come back.

At this, Justice Aurangzeb asked the prosecutor that now you are saying you have no objection and if the bail is granted, tomorrow you will say that the judgement should be struck down. Then you should also ask the NAB chairman and let us decide the appeal (against Nawaz’s conviction) today.

However, the NAB prosecutor said that the watchdog would give its arguments when the appeal would be fixed before the court.

Later, the IHC bench deferred the hearing till Thursday (today) for further proceedings.

In the petitions, the counsel stated that Nawaz was seeking protective bail in order to surrender before the court and “submit to due process of justice and avail remedies permissible under the law”.

He said that Nawaz’s absence before the IHC was neither “intentional nor deliberate nor mala fide”, rather he was unable to do so due to “medical advice” and “circumstances beyond his control”. It said that Nawaz’s health could not improve and medical procedures were delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The petition further said that the relevant health reports were submitted to the LHC, in accordance with its directives. It also said that the previous federal and provincial government, “despite being headed by an arch-rival political party”, never approached the LHC to challenge the veracity of the reports.

The petitions said that due to “unforeseen circumstances beyond human control” and other medical complications, the necessary medical procedure could only be carried out last November. It said that Nawaz had to undergo follow-up examinations in June, adding that the latest medical reports were also submitted to the LHC.

It further said that Nawaz was “constrained to limited public exposure and mobility” and could not address any public meeting, adding that he was “bound down to wear (a) mask throughout this time as of today on account of the complicated nature of ailments and compromised position of immunity”.

The counsel continued that Nawaz was patriotic and had “great love and affection for his homeland”. He said, “Any hypothesis of deliberate abscondence is not reconcilable with the petitioner’s conduct and track record which is an exemplary one”.

He maintained that although Nawaz had not fully recovered and was not in an “ideal state of health”, he had decided to come back to Pakistan at a time when the country was faced with the “worst-ever crises of economy and other fronts”.

Therefore, the lawyer urged the court to grant protective bail to the former prime minister in the interest of justice.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Parvez Oct 19, 2023 11:46am
But has he not already been convicted by the SC and is now absconding.....
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