ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) granted on Thursday Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif protective bail till October 24 in the Avenfield and Al-Aziza cases.
The move comes after an accountability court suspended the perpetual non-bailable arrest warrants issued for his arrest in the Toshakhana gifts case ahead of the thrice-ousted former premier’s arrival in Pakistan, slated for October 21.
The trial court suspended the arrest warrant till October 24 and restrained the authorities from detaining Nawaz at the airport.
The PML-N supremo’s return to the country would mark an end to almost four years of self-imposed exile.
He was convicted in the Al-Azizia and the Avenfield corruption references by an accountability court on July 6, 2018. He was awarded 10 years imprisonment. In October 2019, the IHC granted him bail on humanitarian grounds and he went to London for medical treatment.
However, after failing to return to Pakistan and as his bail expired, the IHC declared him a proclaimed offender and absconder.
Prior to today’s decisions, he was facing non-bailable arrest warrants in the Al-Azizia and Avenfield corruption cases as well as the Toshakhana gifts case.
Protective bail granted
Today (Thursday), an IHC divisional bench, led by Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and comprising Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb, took up the former premier’s plea seeking protective bail in the Avenfield and Al-Aziza graft references.
Nawaz’s lawyer Azam Nazir Tarar apprised the bench that the accountability court has suspended perpetual arrest warrants.
Meanwhile, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) maintained that the prosecution holds no objection to protective bail being granted. “Our stance remains that if he [Nawaz] wishes to appear before the court he may do so,” said the prosecutor.
“On whose directives are you stating this,” inquired the court.
To this, the NAB lawyer replied that he was acting on the directives of the anti-graft watchdog’s prosecutor-general. The court instructed him to submit this in writing.
The NAB prosecutor stated that the court had in its written order stated that the appellant can revive his appeal once he returns to the country.
“NAB’s current stance is that we have no objections to Nawaz’s return to the country,” added the prosecutor.
The court accepted Nawaz’s plea seeking protective bail and granted the same till October 24 while restricting the authorities from arresting the PML-N chief on his arrival to the country while seeking a written reply from NAB on its stance.
Arrest warrants suspended
Meanwhile, accountability court Judge Muhammad Basheer announced the reserved verdict on Nawaz’s plea to suspend his perpetual arrest warrants, granting the ousted premier relief till October 24.
The court accepted Nawaz’s request and directed him to appear before the court on October 24.
Earlier, Nawaz’s counsel Qazi Misbah apprised the court that the PMN-L chief will be returning to the country on October 21 and wishes to appear before the court.
Hence, the perpetual arrest warrants should be cancelled, he argued.
Advocate Misbah further informed the court that the high court has not been approached for protective bail in this case. He recalled that the court had earlier suspended arrest warrants on similar grounds for former finance minister Ishaq Dar.
Nawaz was declared a proclaimed offender in September 2020, recalled the lawyer.
When the court questioned why Nawaz had not appeared before it for all this while, the defence stated that the former premier was granted relief by the Lahore High Court on medical grounds and he was abroad for his treatment.
NAB prosecutor Sohail Arif said that interim relief has also been sought in this application.
At this, advocate Misbah said that Nawaz would appear before the court on October 24 and apprised that no arrest warrant has been issued by the anti-graft body in this case. “We wish to appear before the court,” he maintained.
The NAB prosecutor maintained that it had no objections to the suspension of the arrest warrants issued by the court, given that the defence claims they wish to surrender and that they wish to appear before the court.
The judge observed that Nawaz had left the country with the court’s permission four months before this reference was filed.
He asked whether any other accused was arrested in this case, to which the counsels replied in the negative.
Later, the court accepted Nawaz’s plea and suspended the perpetual arrest warrants.