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ISLAMABAD: Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz are set to return to the country on July 13, exactly a week after being convicted by an accountability court in Islamabad in the Avenfield properties reference.

“Doctors said they can’t say when Ammi [Kulsoom Nawaz] would regain consciousness but we have decided to return on Friday InshaAllah,” declared Maryam through her social media account on Twitter.

Talking to Dawn, PML-N information secretary Mushahidullah Khan said the party would soon give a call to its workers to reach the airport to accord a historic welcome to their supreme leader.

“Caravans from all parts of the country will reach the airport on Friday to receive their favourite and most popular leader,” Mr Khan said.

Responding to a question, the PML-N leader said the main purpose of their gathering at the Islamabad airport was to receive Mr Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz and to lodge their protest against the recent court’s verdict.

Before their departure to London last month to see Kulsoom Nawaz, who is undergoing cancer treatment, both Mr Sharif and his daughter had announced that they would soon return to the country. But they extended their stay in the UK after her health condition deteriorated and she was put on a ventilator.

Maryam wants case probed in UK to show ‘what excesses have been committed by Pakistani courts’

Shortly after the accountability court’s verdict, the former premier said he was not afraid of going to jail and reiterated that he would soon return to Pakistan. However, he did not announce any date that kept the debate alive whether the father-daughter duo would ever return.

Talking to reporters in London on Saturday, Mar­yam said they would return before the expiry of 10-day time limit for filing of an appeal in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the NAB’s court verdict.

When her comments were sought on reports that the Pakistan government was planning to approach the UK authorities to take over possession of the Avenfield apartments, she said that she believed that the Pakistan government would never do so.

She said when the investigators had sought mutual legal assistance from the UK, the British government refused to provide any help, telling them that “no illegal activity” had taken place in their country as per the British laws.

Maryam said it was her desire to see the case being investigated in the UK so that everyone would come to know that “what excesses have been committed by the Pakistani courts”.

Asked as to when they would file an appeal against the verdict, she replied that it would be decided by her father and the media would soon be informed about it.

Mr Sharif was awarded 10 years in prison by the accountability court in the Avenfield properties reference on Friday, while Maryam and her husband Mohammad Safdar were sentenced to seven years and one year imprisonment, respectively, for abetment.

The court also ordered takeover of their property in the Avenfield Apartments, Park Lane, London, and imposed £8 million (approx Rs1,292m) fine on Nawaz Sharif and £2 million (approx Rs323m) on Maryam Nawaz.

The three convicts were also given one-year jail term, which will run concurrently, for not cooperating with NAB during the probe into the case.

In the light of this verdict, both Maryam and her spouse cannot contest elections, while Sharif has already been disqualified for life by the Supreme Court in Panamagate case.

NAB had filed the reference regarding the high-end properties in London, along with two other cases, on the Supreme Court’s directives in the Panamagate verdict that deseated Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister last year.

Besides Nawaz and Maryam, his two sons Hassan and Hussain, who were also accused in the Avenfield property case, are also in London.

However, retired captain Mohammad Safdar, who is in Pakistan, has reportedly gone underground and is set to avail pre-arrest bail from a high court, most probably in Lahore.

Sources in NAB told Dawn that a special team of the bureau had been sent to Mansehra in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to arrest the retired captain after receiving his arrest warrants.

Sharifs convicted of corruption: NAB

Also, NAB on Saturday rejected the claim of the former premier that the accountability court had acquitted him and his family members of corruption charges in the Avenfield properties reference.

The anti-graft watchdog clarified that the Sharifs had been convicted of “corruption” and it would be wrong to say that the court had acquitted them from the charge. “The offence of assets beyond known sources of income which prima facie come under the preview of National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 are corruption and corrupt practices,” explains a NAB spokesman in an attempt to remove misgiving after the Friday verdict and the subsequent news conference addressed by the ousted premier in London.

Mr Sharif while referring to TV reports had claimed that the court order mentioned that the prosecution had failed to prove the corruption charge against him.

The part of the judgement which caused confusion reads as “Prosecution has not brought evidence in respect of 9(a)(4) of the NAO 1999. So the accused are acquitted under that section of the law. The accumulative fact of the evidence produced by the prosecution is that accused Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was holder of public office. He had remained chief minister of Punjab, finance minister, prime minister (three times) and member of National Assembly of Pakistan.”

Section 9(a)(4) of the NAO under the heading “corruption and corrupt practices” states “if he by corrupt, dishonest, or illegal means, obtains or seeks to obtain for himself or for his spouse or dependents or any other person, any property, valuable thing, or pecuniary advantage.”

Under Section 9(a)(v) of the NAO about owning assets disproportionate to known source of income, the court declared that the prosecution shifted the burden of proof on the accused persons. The defence side was required to provide evidence that the Avenfield apartments were not disproportionate to the known sources of their income. The verdict says: “In the above mentioned circumstances, the prosecution has succeeded to bring home the guilt of the accused.”

Section 9(a)(v) states: “if he or any of his dependents or benamidars owns, possesses, or has any right or title in any movable or immovable property or pecuniary resources disproportionate to his known sources of income, which he cannot reasonably account for”.

Meanwhile, the NAB spokesman said the bureau after receiving the judgement on Friday started the process of arresting Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and retired captain Safdar “as per law in order to implement the judgement of the accountability court in letter and spirit.”

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2018