The Islamabad High Court (IHC) dismissed two appeals of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif against his imprisonment sentences in Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Avenfield apartments references.
The court also upheld the decisions of accountability court Islamabad of handing 11-year and seven-year jail in Avenfield and Al-Azizia Steel Mills references respectively. “Since appellant is fugitive from law, hence has lost his right of audience before this court and we are left with no choice except to dismiss his appeals. The instant appeal is dismissed. Appellant may file an application before this court, as and when he surrenders or is captured by the authorities, for decision of the appeal on merits. Needless to observe that the said application, if and when is made, shall be decided in accordance with law,” the court order read.
A division bench of IHC, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhter Kiyani, issued the nine-page judgment, which had been reserved a day earlier after listening to the arguments from NAB prosecutor and the amicus curiae.
“The appellant was provided fair trial and now has absconded from justice at the time of hearing of appeal. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was provided a fair trial inasmuch as learned trial court provided him opportunity of hearing as well as cross-examining the prosecution witnesses and only after the proper trial, his conviction was recorded; he despite being on bail, proceeded abroad and did not appear before this court and without any justification, remained absent on a number of dates. Hence this court was left with no option but to follow the procedure as provided in Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 and declare him as fugitive from law,” the court order read.
The former prime minister was sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison besides a £8 million (Rs 1.3 billion) fine in the Avenfield apartments reference while the trial court had announced a seven-year jail to Nawaz Sharif along with Rs 1.5 billion and $25 million fines in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference. The former prime minister had filed appeals in the IHC against the decision of the accountability court. The IHC had suspended the verdict in the Avenfield reference and later granted bail to Nawaz Sharif in Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference, allowing him to travel abroad for medical treatment. However, the accused skipped multiple hearings deliberately and didn’t surrender despite repeated court notices. Subsequently, the IHC declared Nawaz Sharif fugitive on continuous disappearance and has now finally dismissed his appeals.
During Wednesday’s hearing, the NAB additional prosecutor general had reminded the bench that it had already deliberated upon the issue of proclaiming Sharif an absconder. He, however, had argued that the court was at liberty to hear the connected appeals of Maryam Nawaz and retired Captain (s) Safdar against their conviction in Avenfield reference. Advocate Tarrar, on the other hand, had argued before the court that prior to the 18th Amendment when Article 10-A, which guarantees a fair trial, was not inserted in the Constitution, the superior courts tended to reject the appeals of absconders and proclaimed offenders and there was no hard and fast rule for fugitives. He, however, said that after Article 10-A was inserted in the Constitution, it ensures a fair trial and right of an audience even to those not present before the court.
Reacting to the court decision, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain Thursday described the dismissal of PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif’s appeals by the IHC a victory of people and PTI’s stance. “From the very beginning, it was our (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) stance that Nawaz Sharif’s family should return the money they had looted from the people of Pakistan,” he said in a video message. “It is a victory of justice as Nawaz Sharif, who was declared an absconder, has yet to pay the fine imposed on him by the Accountability Court of Islamabad,” he added.