The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday issued its detailed verdict on the revival of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Nawaz Sharif’s appeals against his convictions in the Al-Azizia and Avenfield references, saying the “relief” was a result of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) not objecting to the plea.
The ruling states that Sharif’s application against conviction in both cases has been revived “due to explicit and unambiguous stance” taken by the anti-graft body to not object to the petitioner’s plea. “Since the learned prosecutor general, NAB did not oppose the applications for the restoration/resurrection of the appeals, the applications are allowed and the appeals are restored with all legal consequences,” continued the order of IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb.
“These applications were allowed and the appeals were resurrected. They are to be heard and decided by this court on merits,” it added. The ruling also ratified the Punjab government’s decision to suspend Sharif’s sentence in the Al-Azizia reference. It stated that the petitioner’s lawyers had filed an application before the Punjab government on Oct. 21 seeking the suspension of his sentence under Section 401(2) of Criminal Procedure Code on medical grounds.
”The caretaker chief minister of Punjab, on Oct. 22, constituted a committee … with the mandate to deliberate upon the matter and submit recommendations for consideration by the caretaker provincial cabinet,” it said. The committee had recommended that the caretaker cabinet might suspend the execution of the sentence awarded to the petitioner by accepting the application under Section 401(2) CrPC. The caretaker chief minister subsequently approved the recommendations and directed for the matter to be placed before the caretaker provincial cabinet through circulation. The recommendations were then placed before the cabinet through a summary on Oct. 23 and subsequently approved.
Separately, the same divisional bench also issued a detailed ruling on the approval of two-day protective bail for the former prime minister in the same cases. “The operation of the interim relief given to the petitioner was extended for two days … It ought to be borne in mind that these orders were passed after a clear, unequivocal and emphatic position was taken on behalf of NAB that such protection be afforded to the petitioner [Nawaz Sharif],” it said.
“The prosecutor general, NAB was equally clear, unequivocal, and emphatic in his submission … that NAB has no intention to arrest the petitioner [Nawaz Sharif],” it added.
Sharif was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in the Avenfield reference for owning assets beyond means in July 2018, as well as a year for not cooperating with NAB, with both sentences to be served concurrently. A few months later, on Dec. 24, 2018, he was sentenced to seven years in jail In the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference. He was released in March 2019, with the Lahore High Court allowing him to travel to London for medical treatment in November. Subsequently, the IHC had declared him a proclaimed offender in both cases in December 2020 for repeated failure to attend proceedings.
On Oct. 19, the IHC approved a two-day protective bail of the former prime minister in the Al-Azizia and Avenfield references. On Oct. 26, it allowed the restoration of Sharif’s appeals against his conviction. The “urgent relief” has been criticized by political rivals, particularly the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, who allege it indicates the PMLN leader has inked a “deal” with the establishment.