By News Desk
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday acquitted Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of former premier Nawaz Sharif, and her husband Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar in Avenfield property reference, quashing their convictions handed in the case by an accountability court in 2018.
A two-judge IHC bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhter Kayani announced the verdict after listening arguments from two sides at large. Maryam Nawaz appeared before the court along with her legal team.
Terminating the reference, the IHC stated the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had failed to establish its charges against Maryam and her husband.
An accountability court had handed seven-year imprisonment to Maryam and one-year jail term to Capt Safdar in 2018 along with fine. In August 2019, Maryam was arrested in the case — while she was visiting her father in prison. Later, a local court granted her bail in November 2019. Maryam and her husband had challenged their convictions before the IHC.
During the hearing on Thursday, the IHC asked the deputy prosecutor NAB, Sardar Muzafar Abbasi, to read out only the relevant portion of the case record. Justice Aamer Farooq said the Advocate on Record (AOR) had filed application to the apex court and asked whether AOR was summoned as witness in the trial court.
Justice Mohsin Akhter Kayani asked the deputy prosecutor NAB to also read out the miscellaneous application filed in the Supreme Court.
The prosecutor said the application was filed by Hassan and Hussain Nawaz. Justice Farooq observed that the court had to view whether the documents presented by the NAB were based on evidence or it was mere an opinion of somebody. The court asked the NAB to inform about the cost of each flat against which it was purchased. Was there any document submitted which showed that when and against what price the flats were purchased, it questioned.
Maryam’s counsel Amjad Pervaiz pleaded that neither document with such information existed nor it was mentioned in the statement of Section 342 as well.
The court observed that NAB prosecutor Usman Cheema had adopted the stance that Maryam’s role was not initiated in 1996, instead her role came in 2006 regarding London flats.
The NAB prosecutor on the occasion presented the documents of Nelson and Nescom companies. Justice Farooq remarked it was an admitted fact that this property was owned by Nelson and Nescom companies, adding the land registries of four apartments would be the same.
Justice Kayani asked the prosecutor to prove the link of these companies with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif through the evidence. Justice Farooq asked whether now the prosecution was of the view that Maryam was the beneficial owner of this property. The court further questioned whether it should perceive that Nawaz Sharif had no link with this case. Justice Farooq remarked there was no name of Nawaz Sharif anywhere into this matter.
It was not understandable that how the NAB was linking this property with him (Nawaz Sharif), he added. The court observed the reference pertaining to holding assets beyond known sources of income could not be prepared against Maryam as she had not been a public office holder. The court instructed the NAB prosecutor to prove his arguments with the evidence.
Maryam’s lawyer said the NAB only depended on report of Rehman Malik. The NAB prosecutor said being public office holder Nawaz Sharif had purchased these apartments in the name of his daughter. The court said the NAB had no case instead of miscellaneous applications which were filed in this matter.
The court remarked if JIT head Wajid Zia came to know that the value of this property was five million dollars, then he could get the details easily. NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzafar Abbasi said the estimation of property’s value was not relevant to this case. The court said it was a wrong perception of the NAB.
After the NAB prosecutor concluded arguments, the court acquitted Maryam Nawaz and her husband while terminating the Avenfield property reference.
The accountability court had announced a total of eight year imprisonment sentence to Maryam along with fine worth Rs335 million while Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar was given one-year jail term in 2018. The court had also disqualified Maryam for a period of ten years to hold a public office.
Similarly, the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was awarded a total of 11 year imprisonment sentence along with fine worth Rs1.3 billion. In the previous hearings, the IHC bench had raised several questions against the merits of the reference.
Talking to journalists after the IHC ruling, Maryam said she was thankful to Allah for making Nawaz and her proud today. “This is how lies come to end,” Maryam said, as she thanked her legal team for fighting her case throughout the years. While she was addressing the journalists, she received a call from her “uncle” as well.
Maryam further said no political leader in the history of the country has been through such stringent accountability as Nawaz. “He now has more respect than ever [after my acquittal].” The PML-N vice president said despite Nawaz getting advisories to not face hearings in the Avenfield reference, not only he, but his children also faced trial.
Moving on, Maryam asked PTI Chairman Imran Khan what would he do now as he has been proven “a liar” and “a conspirator”, while Nawaz has come out on top. Maryam told Khan he is a “helpless” person now and whether or not he decides to answer for his deeds, “history will ensure that you answer for it”. In response to a question that the case was registered against her before PTI came into power and that some other powers were behind it, Maryam said: “Who was the beneficiary of all this? Had Nawaz remained here, then even in three lifetimes, Imran could not have come into power.”
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, while talking to his aides in London, congratulated his daughter Maryam and claimed the cases against the father-daughter duo were “baseless”, Geo News reported.
“God has unveiled the liars today. The sentences were announced hastily to prevent us from participating in the 2018 elections,” said the former prime minister, adding some people wanted him not to come back to Pakistan after the sentences were announced. He shared that he returned to Pakistan for his arrest with his daughter after leaving behind an ailing wife.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said Maryam’s acquittal was a slap in the face of so called accountability system that was employed to target Sharif family. “The edifice of lies, slander, character assassination has come crumbling down today,” the Prime Minister wrote on Twitter.
He congratulated PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif over the decision announced. “Maryam Nawaz’s acquittal in the Avenfield Reference is a slap in the face of so-called accountability system that was employed to target Sharif family. “My congratulations to Maryam Beti, Safdar,” the Prime Minister added. He also hoped justice would prevail in the matter of evidence regarding late judge Arshad Malik. “Finally Maryam and Safdar got justice. We bow before Allah Almighty who blessed us with success,” he added.
The Premier said with the court verdict, another chapter of political victimisation reached to its end and innocent people stood vindicated. He said both Maryam Nawaz and Capt Safdar faced the worst conditions with patience and steadfastness.
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