IHC overturns Maryam Nawaz, Capt Safdar's conviction in Avenfield case
Court also annuls sentences announced by the accountability court, automatically ending PML-N VP's 10-year disqualification: Justice Farooq says NAB has failed to prove case against Sharifs
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A two-judge bench of the Islamabad High Court on Thursday overturned the conviction of PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz and her husband Captain (retd) Safdar in the Avenfield reference, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.
The court also set aside the sentences awarded to Maryam and Safdar by the accountability court, automatically also ending the 10-year disqualification of the PML-N vice-president.
The court has yet to release its short order.
NAB prosecutor Usman G Rashid Cheema did not appear before the court. However, another NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi appeared during the proceedings.
At the outset of the hearing, Abbasi started reading the NAB case. He said that Hassan and Hussain Nawaz had submitted a miscellaneous petition to the Supreme Court in January 2017. He said that Tariq Shafi had submitted his affidavit in which he told about the sale of Gulf Steel Mill. He said that when the SC asked Shafi how the Gulf Steel Mill was established, he had failed to satisfy the court that he was their business partner.
On this, Justice Farooq asked the NAB prosecutor how did it prove the charge against Nawaz Sharif and Maryam.
Muzaffar said that Wajid Zia — former director of the Federal Investigation Agency — had overviewed the documents himself and expressed his opinion on it. He said he would show from the documents that these properties were purchased in 1999.
Justice Farooq again asked the prosecutor to inform the court about Maryam’s link to the assets. He rebuked the prosecutor saying ‘do not tell anything orally, submit record.’
The court observed that Abbasi statements were contradictory, adding that the NAB prosecutor had said at the previous hearing that Maryam had no role in purchasing the properties.
“Usman [Cheema] clearly said that Maryam had nothing to do with the properties in 1993. You’re saying that Maryam’s connection was there from the beginning,” Justice Farooq remarked, adding that NAB should first make itself clear on the issue and then inform the court.
Abbasi replied that Nawaz had bought properties in London in Maryam’s name while being a public office holder.
Justice Farooq remarked that the NAB officer had not established any link. He said the court does not accept the investigating officer’s opinion as evidence. He observed that the JIT did not present facts, rather it provided oral information only.
Justice Kiyani remarked that NAB presented two documents retrieved from London as evidence but on these documents, no degree could be issued. The judge wondered then how could it become a criminal case.
NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar argued that the Sharif family did not present any documents in their defence.
Justice Farooq chided the lawyer saying why the Sharifs should produce any documents as the onus was on the NAB to prove them wrong.
“Where was the connection of Nawaz Sharif shown in the letter? If Nawaz’s connection was not established, then how a NAB case against Maryam could have been lodged,” Justice Farooq remarked.
The judge said NAB had prepared the entire case against Maryam and there was no mention of Nawaz. He observed if a property was in daughter’s name, it did not mean that it was owned by the father.
He said that Capt Safdar was convicted on the basis of a trust deed which the NAB claimed was fake. Let’s assume if this document was not original, even then it was accepted by all parties.
Justice Farooq went on to remark that the NAB’s case might be valid but the watchdog had failed to prove it.
On July 6, a few weeks before the elections in 2018, the accountability judge of Islamabad, who was working under the supervision of an apex court judge, convicted the Sharif family in the Avenfield properties reference.
PML-N Quaid and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was handed 10 years as jail time for owning assets beyond known income and one year for not cooperating with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Meanwhile, Maryam was given seven years for abetment after she was found “instrumental in concealment of the properties of her father” and one year for non-cooperation with the bureau.
Captain Safdar was given one year jail time — for not cooperating with NAB, and aiding and abetting Nawaz and Maryam.
The Sharif family had filed appeals against its conviction before the IHC in the second week of August 2018. The court had on Sept 18 the same year suspended their sentences and released them on bail.
Reporter Ehtisham Kiyani