Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday moved a step closer to resolving the cases pending against him, paving the way for contesting elections, as his sentence was suspended in one conviction, his bail confirmed in another case, and protective bail extended until Oct. 26 against two more convictions.
In a major relief, the Punjab government suspended Sharif’s sentence in the Al-Azizia reference. In 2018, Sharif was convicted of corrupt practices in the case and sentenced to seven years in jail and fines of Rs. 1.5 billion and $25 million for failing to establish his sources of income. The judgment had stated that Sharif was disqualified from holding any public office for 10 years, adding he could also not secure any loans or other financial accommodation by any financial institutions controlled by the government for the same period.
According to interim Punjab Information Minister Amir Mir, the caretaker government suspended the sentence using its “constitutional powers” under Section 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which allows for the suspension of any sentence.
Sharif had been convicted in the Al-Azizia reference by late judge Arshad Malik, who had subsequently—in a leaked video—claimed he sentenced the PMLN leader under duress. After an inquiry, Malik was removed from service. He died on Dec. 4, 2020 after contracting COVID-19.
Also on Tuesday, an accountability court in Islamabad confirmed the former prime minister’s bail in the Toshakhana case, cancelling the warrants issued for his arrest in 2020. The case pertains to Nawaz—as well as former president Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani—allegedly receiving luxury vehicles and gifts from the Toshakhana.
During proceedings, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor contended that as Sharif had surrendered to court, his arrest warrants should be cancelled. “If the warrants are cancelled then the trial can move forward,” he said, prompting the court to confirm Sharif’s bail against a surety bond of Rs. 1 million. The case was then adjourned until Nov. 20.
The PMLN leader also appeared before the Islamabad High Court (IHC), seeking restoration of his appeals against convictions in the Avenfield Apartments and Al-Azizia references. A day earlier, he had filed applications contending that he was abroad for medical treatment when the pending appeals were dismissed for non-prosecution. The applications requested the court to revive the appeals to make a decision on these pleas on merit.
Commencing the proceedings, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Judge Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb extended the protective bail of Sharif until Oct. 26 after directing his counsel, Azam Nazeer Tarar, to justify why Sharif had been absent from court proceedings. The judges also issued notices to NAB to provide its stance on whether or not the appeals should be revived. Judge Aurangzeb remarked the matter should proceed according to law, while the IHC CJ observed this was not an “easy” case and any relief could only be ensured once NAB’s stance had been obtained.