IHC tells Nawaz ‘to surrender’, appear before court at next hearing

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) said on Tuesday that it was giving former prime minister Nawaz Sharif a chance “to surrender” and appear before the court at the next hearing scheduled for September 10.

An IHC division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani was hearing the appeals of former premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and her husband, Safdar, against their convictions in the Avenfield reference.

The bench will also hear an appeal filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against Nawaz’s acquittal in the Flagship reference as well as appeals against his conviction in the Al-Azizia reference.

During today’s hearing, Justice Farooq said that the court was not declaring Nawaz an absconder and was giving him “one more chance to surrender”.

Earlier today, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and her husband, retired captain Mohammad Safdar, appeared before the court.

Maryam travelled to Islamabad from Murree and was welcomed by hundreds of party workers and supporters, who shouted slogans and showered her with rose petals, when she reached Bhara Kahu.

Several PML-N leaders also accompanied Maryam to the high court including party leaders Pervaiz Rashid and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Speaking to the media before the hearing, Maryam said that only the All Parties Conference (APC) will reveal whether the PPP was with the PML-N or not, adding that the latter will “definitely” attend it.

“Opposition parties should work together to take action against the government,” she said.

She also commented on Nawaz’s health. “No one would want to stay away from the country at this age. [Nawaz’s] treatment is ongoing but was delayed due to the coronavirus.”

She added that she wanted her father to complete his medical treatment and not come back to Pakistan. “[But] knowing his condition, I can say with certainty he will not stay away from Pakistan.”

A large number of police officials have been deployed to ensure security at the high court. According to Islamabad police, 560 officials, three DSPs and nine inspectors have been deputed.

Only lawyers and media representatives will be allowed to enter the court premises, police said, adding that officials in plainclothes will also be patrolling the streets.

References against the Sharifs

All three references — the Avenfield reference, the Flagship reference and the Al-Azizia reference — are offshoots of the Panama Papers leak case relating to 785,000 offshore companies. The PTI, Jamaat-i-Islami and Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had brought the matter before the Supreme Court.

The apex court had disqualified Nawaz Sharif as prime minister and directed NAB to file three references against the Sharif family and one against then finance minister Ishaq Dar in the accountability court.

Accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir had on July 6, 2018 convicted Nawaz, Maryam and Capt Safdar in the Avenfield reference while they were in the United Kingdom taking care of ailing Kulsoom Nawaz, handing the former prime minister 10 years as jail time for owning assets beyond known income and one year for not cooperating with the bureau.

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.

Her husband was given one year jail time — for not cooperating with NAB, and aiding and abetting Nawaz and Maryam.

Following the conviction, the Sharif family members returned to Pakistan and were imprisoned. However, all three were released from Adiala jail in September after the IHC had suspended their respective prison sentences in the Avenfield corruption reference.