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Avenfield, Al-Azizia hearing: IHC orders Nawaz Sharif to surrender before court

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday gave a chance to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who is currently in London, to surrender before the court, ARY News reported.

An IHC division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani was hearing appeals of Nawaz Sharif against his conviction in Al-Azizia and Avenfield property references. The court also took up the appeals of Maryam Nawaz and retired Captain Mohammad Safdar in the Avenfield reference.

The court directed the PML-N supremo to appear before it no matter what condition he is in and adjourned the hearing of the case until September 10. Maryam along with her spouse appeared in court.

At the outset of the hearing, the bench questioned Khawaja Haris, representing the former premier, whether his client is out on bail, to which he replied that the Punjab government had rejected his bail extension plea.

At this, the judges asked if Nawaz should not have surrendered after his bail ceased to have an effect. Haris said the PML-N leader is not in a position to fly back to the country and surrender at present as he is undergoing treatment abroad.

Read More: Nawaz maybe ‘at much greater risk’ if exposed to Covid-19: medical report

To another question, he said the sentence awarded to the former premier still stands. He told the bench that Nawaz Sharif is getting treatment at his London residence and can’t come back to Pakistan. He also read to the judges the undertaking submitted by PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif in which he assured the court of his elder brother’s return to the country after treatment.

Justice Kayani observed that the Lahore High Court (LHC) permitted the ex-PM to travel abroad for four weeks on the basis of this undertaking and asked the lawyer to satisfy as to the health condition of the former premier.

Khawaja Haris said his client’s treatment was delayed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, adding they approached the Punjab government seeking an extension in his stay in London but it rejected the plea.

Justice Kayani observed that all reports about Nawaz Sharif’s health are old ones. Justice Farooq noted that the federal government had not gotten any information about his treatment abroad nor has anyone from Pakistan High Commission in London gone to see the ex-PM.

About whether or not Sharif can be declared a proclaimed offender over absence, the lawyer said the court needs to take into consideration the fact that his client is unwell. When Justice Kayani asked whether Sharif challenged the Punjab government’s decision of rejecting the bail extension plea, he replied that the ex-premier was out of the country at the time of the announcement of the decision.

He said the LHC called for a federal government representative to go and see Nawaz Sharif in the UK but no compliance has been made thereof. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor, however, opposed Sharif’s plea for granting exemption from personal appearance in the proceedings.

Khawaja Haris had filed an application in the court the previous day, requesting the bench to either allow his client’s pleader to represent him in today’s proceedings or adjourn the hearing until his return.

Maryam and Capt Safdar also filed an application with a request for adjourning the Avenfield case until after Sept 5.

The accused have been out on bail since Sept 19, 2018 when the IHC suspended the 10-year, seven-year, and one-year imprisonment handed down to Nawaz, Maryam, and Safdar, respectively by an accountability court on July 6, 2018. The Supreme Court later upheld the suspension of their conviction while rejecting the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) appeal against the high court’s decision.

Read More: Fake medical reports aided Nawaz Sharif’s exit, claims Fawad Chaudhry

Accountability court Judge Muhammad Arshad Malik had handed the verdicts in the Al-Azizia and Flagship cases. He was later dismissed from his post following a video scandal.

Addressing a press conference alongside top PML-N leadership on July 6, 2019, Maryam had shown reporters a video in which judge Arshad Malik was heard saying that there was “no proof of corruption against the deposed premier” in the Al-Azizia reference and that he was coerced into convicting him.

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