Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Nawaz Sharif was on Thursday granted protective bail in two graft cases, while an accountability court suspended his arrest warrant in a third case, paving the way for his hurdle-free homecoming.
A day earlier, the former prime minister, through his counsel, had approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for bail in the Al-Azizia and Avenfield references. During Wednesday’s proceedings, the high court had questioned whether the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had any objections to Sharif’s pleas. The anti-graft watchdog’s special prosecutor had said he had no objections so long as Sharif intended to pursue the cases. The IHC had then issued a notice to NAB on the petitions.
In today’s proceedings, the IHC division bench—comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb—noted that NAB had not raised any objections to the protective bail sought by Sharif and approved the PMLN leader’s plea. He was then granted protective bail until Oct. 24, barring authorities from any action against him, ensuring he would not face any arrests upon his scheduled arrival in Pakistan on Oct. 21.
Also on Thursday, an accountability court suspended the arrest warrant issued against Sharif in the Toshakhana case after the NAB prosecutor raised no objections to the move. Filed a day earlier, the PMLN leader’s petition had sought the suspension to prevent his arrest upon his return to Pakistan on Oct. 21.
In today’s hearing, accountability court Judge Muhammad Bashir approved the stay, noting that it would be restored if the accused did not appear before the court on Oct. 24. During proceedings, Sharif’s counsel argued that his client wished to appear before the court and should be permitted to do so with the suspension of the arrest warrant.
To questions on why Nawaz had failed to appear before the court in a personal capacity, the lawyer said his client was unwell, noting his medical report was submitted with the petition. The NAB prosecutor, meanwhile, said he had no issue with the warrant being suspended so long as the accused appeared before court on Oct. 24.
Sharif, a thrice-elected prime minister, was declared a proclaimed offender in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia cases by the IHC over non-compliance after he traveled to London for medical treatment with the Lahore High Court’s permission in November 2019.
An accountability court had, in 2018, sentenced Sharif to 10 years’ imprisonment In the Avenfield reference, and 7 years in the Al-Azizia case. The sentence had been suspended but appeals had been pending when he left for London. His appeals against the convictions were subsequently dismissed by an IHC bench comprising Chief Justice Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani for non-compliance over failure to appear before court while he was in London. The court had said he could file fresh appeals once he returned to the country.