Nawaz moves courts ahead of homecoming


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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and an accountability court to seek protective bail and suspension of his perpetual arrest warrants, ahead of his scheduled return to the country on Saturday.

Both the courts issued notices to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for their replies to Nawaz’s applications for allowing him to surrender before the courts.

The courts had fixed Oct 19 (Thursday) to hear the matter.

Nawaz was convicted in the Al-Azizia and the Avenfield corruption references by an accountability court on July 6, 2018. He was awarded 10-year imprisonment. In October 2019, the IHC had 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. He was currently faced with non-bailable arrest warrants in the Al-Azizia and Avenfield corruption cases as well as the Toshakhana gifts case.

Last month, the PML-N announced that Nawaz would return to the country in Oct 21. Since then, it was stated by several party leaders that he would first seek protective bail from the court to avoid his immediate arrest after landing in the country.

The party leadership had also said that after coming to the country, he would surrender to the relevant courts and pursue his pending cases, including his appeal against his conviction by the accountability court in the NAB references.

On Wednesday, just three days before his scheduled return to the country, Nawaz’s special attorney, Attaullah Tarar, filed an application in the IHC for protective bail. The plea was taken up by a division bench led by Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and comprising Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb.

Nawaz’s lawyer, Amjad Parvez Advocate, apprised the bench that the former prime minister wanted to surrender to the court.

He argued that whenever someone sought to surrender to the law, the courts gave a chance.

To supplement his arguments, the lawyer referred to the previous court cases of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, Ansa Arbab, and Arbab Alamgir. Another PML-N lawyer Azam Nazir Tarar said that the record of appeals against Nawaz’s sentencing was already in the court.

To a court query, NAB Prosecutor Afzal Qureshi said that if a proclaimed offender wanted to return and surrender to the court, he had no objection.

However, Justice Aurangzeb asked him to seek instructions from the NAB chairman on the matter.

In his reply to the bench, the prosecutor said that the NAB chairman was currently abroad and when that plea was fixed for regular hearing, he would take instructions from the chairman and give his arguments accordingly.

Later, the court stated in its order that Nawaz’s current status was that of a proclaimed offender, while the special NAB prosecutor had been instructed not to oppose the application.

The court then issued notices to NAB for Thursday (today) on the application.

Separately, the accountability court in Islamabad was requested by Nawaz’s lawyer to suspend his perpetual arrest warrants till Oct 24.

The court issued a notice to NAB, ordering its officials to appear before it on Thursday (today).

The plea

In his application in the IHC, Nawaz stated that he would land in Islamabad on Oct 21, therefore, he should be granted protective bail to allow him to reach the court.

He apprised the court that he did not misuse the bail relief granted to him, rather it was his health that did not allow him to return early.

The application said that Nawaz was convicted in the Avenfield reference and the accountability court sentenced him in absentia on July 6, 2018.

At that time, Nawaz said, his wife was under treatment in London and was on ventilator and his request for delaying the announcement of the verdict was denied.

Nawaz said that despite his sentencing, he returned to Pakistan, faced jail and filed appeals.

He pointed out that the co-accused in the Avenfield reference, Maryam Nawaz and Capt (retd) Safdar, had both been acquitted.

As he did not appear in the court, Nawaz said, his appeal was dismissed for non-compliance, with the court order stating that he could file the appeal when he surrendered to the court or was arrested.

He added that he could not appear before the court because of medical reasons.

The application added that Nawaz’s medical reports had been submitted to the Lahore High Court (LHC) on a regular basis.

Nawaz said that he had still not fully recovered but as the country was facing economic difficulties, therefore, he had decided to return.

Nawaz said that undemocratic forces had subjected him and his family to political vendetta in the past, while colonial-era laws were used as a weapon against him by the law enforcement agencies.

During the regimes of political opponents and a dictator, he and his family were persecuted, he added.

He went on to say that during his tenure as the prime minister, projects worth billions of dollars were completed and the country was progressing. But a conspiracy was hatched to remove him from the political scene.

About the NAB references, he said that when the powerful joint investigation team (JIT) could not produce any evidence to support the allegations of kickbacks, commission or misuse of authority against him, he was removed from the office on the charges of not receiving salary.

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