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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC), Thursday, decided to hear Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid Nawaz Sharif’s appeal against his conviction in the Al-Azizia reference, on merit.

A division bench of Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb heard Nawaz Sharif’s appeal.

The Accountability Court (AC), Islamabad, convicted the former prime minister in Al-Azizia/ Hill Metals Establishment corruption references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and awarded him rigorous imprisonment for a term of seven years on December 24, 2018, in the said reference.

Sharif had moved the appeal through his counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmad and cited the State through secretary law, the NAB through its chairman, judge accountability court–II, Islamabad, and the superintendent Central Jail Kot Lakhpat, Lahore as respondents.

During the hearing, the NAB prosecutor requested the bench to remand back the appeal to the accountability court. However, the bench rejected the NAB’s appeal and decided to hear the matter on merit.

Sharif’s lawyer Amjad Pervez informed the court that there are 22 witnesses in this case and most of them are linked to the bank records.

Justice Aamer questioned whether the case was linked to the Panama Papers. The counsel replied in affirmative. He said that three references were filed in the Panama cases: Al-Azizia, Avenfield, and Flagship Investment references.

He submitted that Accountability Court had acquitted Sharif in the Flagship reference, adding the three references were the outcome of one Supreme Court judgment. He contended that a single reference should have been filed against the PML-N leader as all three references mentioned accusations of holding assets beyond means.

Amjad argued that it had been established in the last seven years that Nawaz’s father had established Al Azizia mills. He also said that Nawaz Sharif was not linked to it in any way.

The NAB prosecutor contended that he should take their other miscellaneous pleas back while Pervez opposed the NAB prosecutor’s plea for remanding the appeal back to the accountability court.

At one point, the NAB prosecutor pointed out the video scandal surrounding former accountability judge Arshad Malik and asked the court to first take up that matter.

Justice Aurangzeb said that it was up to the petitioner if he wanted to pursue the matter as pleas pertaining to the same were filed in the court. “We can set up a screen here and play the video,” he stated. But do not forget that this can also become a double-edged sword, the judge warned.

The PML-N’s counsel said that his client did not want to press the matter as the said judge had passed away. Pervez then read out loud the SC’s judgment in the Panama Papers case.

At that, Justice Aamer said that the court has two options, either to decide on merit after observing additional evidence or remand the reference back to the accountability court.

Justice Miangul remarked that Nawaz would be considered an accused if the case is sent back to the accountability court and the trial court would have to decide again.

Later, the bench decided to hear the appeal on merit while turning down the NAB prosecutor’s request.

After the completion of arguments, the court adjourned until December 12.

On the next date, the NAB prosecutor will present his arguments.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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