The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday restored Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Nawaz Sharif’s appeals against his convictions in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia cases after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) informed the court it had no objections.
A two-member bench of Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb heard Nawaz’s pleas seeking revival of his appeals, which had been set aside in 2020 after he was declared a proclaimed offender over continuous absence from proceedings.
During the proceedings, NAB’s counsel informed the bench that it has no objections to the revival of Nawaz’s pleas, adding the court had, in earlier verdicts, ruled that any evidence whether in favor of or against a plaintiff should be heard. To a query from Justice Aurangzeb on where NAB would defend the judgments against Sharif or argue against them, the prosecutor said the anti-graft body would review the case and evidences before giving its arguments on the appeals.
NAB Prosecutor General Syed Ihtesham Qadir Shah also clarified that NAB could not withdraw the reference against Sharif once his conviction had already been announced. “If an appeal is filed, a decision has to be made, it cannot be dismissed even for non-pursuance,” he said, adding that if appeals were restored, then arguments would be heard on merit and a decision taken.
He also sought to negate an impression that NAB was not interested in pursuing the case. “Let me assure you that this is not the situation,” he said, adding it was his job to advise the NAB chairman in line with the law. “If an absconder has surrendered before the court, then their appeals should be reinstated,” he added.
The PMLN leader’s lawyer, Amjad Pervaiz, meanwhile, said an earlier IHC ruling had already acquitted PMLN Chief Organizer Maryam Nawaz in the Avenfield reference.
Reviving the appeals, the judges said a written order—yet to be released—would clarify the state of Sharif’s protective bail, which had been granted to him on Oct. 19, extended till Oct. 24, and then extended once more till Oct. 26.
Earlier this week, the Punjab government separately approved the suspension of Sharif’s sentence in the Al-Azizia reference, ensuring he would not be incarcerated in the case pending his appeals.
Prior to leaving Pakistan in 2019 for London on medical grounds, Sharif was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in the Avenfield reference, and 7 years in jail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference.