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Sharifs plan to fight on if ruling is adverse

Updated December 24, 2018

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Former premier Nawaz Sharif talks outside an accountability court. — File photo
Former premier Nawaz Sharif talks outside an accountability court. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: As an eagerly-awaited decision in two references against the supreme leader of main opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is set to be announced on Monday morning, the PML-N leadership at a meeting on Sunday decided to opt for a legal course of action and to launch protest drive if the verdict comes against ex-premier Nawaz Sharif.

Nawaz Sharif: A man for the next season

While Mr Sharif who has been facing Al-Azizia and Flagship references in an accountability court arrived in Islamabad from Lahore and met Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif at Ministers’ Enclave, the administration of the federal capital tightened security across the city in general and around the judicial complex in particular in view of possible backlash if the verdict comes against the PML-N supremo.

Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik of the accountability court is expected to pronounce the judgement between 9am and 10am.

Verdict in Azizia, Flagship references today; security tightened in Islamabad

The PML-N founding leaders considered post-verdict scenarios and decided to launch a protest campaign both in parliament and on streets if judgement came against the leadership, according to sources privy to the meeting that lasted two hours.

In pictures: The rise and fall of Nawaz Sharif

It was decided that the protest drive would be launched from Parliament House and the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly would invite leadership of the other major opposition party, Pakistan Peoples Party, to his chambers to take them on board.

Besides, a campaign to mobilise party workers would be launched at the PML-N workers’ convention scheduled to be held in Lahore on Dec 30, said the sources privy to the Islamabad meeting.

Maryam breaks silence

On Sunday night, Maryam Nawaz broke her silence after five months, at least in the social media domain, by conveying good wishes to her father on the eve of the accountability court’s verdict. “The last time I saw Her [Begum Kulsoom Nawaz] was in the coffin. The last time I saw Him smile was with Her. May Allah have mercy on both of you. Ameen,” read the tweet posted at 9:45pm on her official Twitter account.

While declining Mr Nawaz’s verbal request on Friday to defer pronouncement of judgement for a couple of days, the judge reiterated that the verdict on both references would be pronounced on Monday. Leader of the opposition Shahbaz Sharif, who has been in National Accountability Bureau’s custody since Oct 5 in Ashiyana housing scam investigations, was recently released to attend the National Assembly session that continued for over a week and prorogued on Friday for an indefinite period.

Take a look: The rise and rise of Maryam Nawaz

Security arrangements

In view of a possible reaction of PML-N workers in case a verdict comes against their leader, the administration of Islamabad beefed up security measures around the judicial complex.

Section 144 of the criminal procedure code has been in place in the capital under which staging rallies and processions is prohibited. Heavy contingents of police and the Rangers have been deployed around the court building and along roads leading to the accountability court.

Also read: A protest not named PML-N

However, the administrations of both Islamabad and Rawalpindi decided that there would be no blockade at entry points of Islamabad and security officials would only ensure strict checking.

Entry to the accountability court has been restricted. No one will be allowed to attend proceedings on Monday except those having permission of the registrar.

Meanwhile, a private news channel quoted sources as saying that Maryam Nawaz also met her father on Sunday and decided to play an active part in party’s future politics. She was also quoted as saying that decisions meant to distance Nawaz Sharif from the masses were grounded in baseless assumptions.

In her latest tweet, Ms Maryam attached three photographs of her parents: One of them is perhaps on the occasion of former prime minister’s birthday, as late Begum Kulsoom sitting in sofa is offering sweets to her husband. Another photo features the couple during their visit at Sanssouci Castle, Berlin, Germany, on April 1, 1993 – days before then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan ousted Mr Sharif as prime minister using controversial Article 58-2-B. The other photo is of later days in which the former first lady can be seen holding his arm.

Both Maryam and her father had been taken into custody from the Lahore airport on their return from London on July 13 in the Avenfield apartment reference. Since then the duo, particularly Maryam, seldom spoke or reacted publicly to any political development. She also stayed away from the social media when she and her father were bailed out by the Islamabad High Court on Sept 19, eight days after her mother’s demise.

The previous tweet she had made was on July 24, urging PML-N workers to come out of their homes the next day (July 25, when 2018 general elections were held) to vote for the party.

Earlier in September 2017, NAB had filed three references against Mr Nawaz related to Avenfield properties, Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investment on a Supreme Court directive in the landmark Panamagate verdict last year after which the former prime minister had stepped down.

In the Avenfield properties reference, Judge Mohammad Bashir of the accountability court on July 6, 2018 convicted Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam, and son-in-law retired Capt Mohammad Safdar and sentenced them to jail for 10 years, seven years and one year, respectively. Later on Sept 19, the Islamabad High Court suspended the sentence and granted them bail. NAB’s appeal against the suspension of the sentence remains pending before the SC.

In the other two references, related to Al-Azizia and Hill Metal Establishment in Saudi Arabia and Flagship Investment in the UK, the accountability court charged the ex-premier under NAB Ordinance-1999.

According to the prosecution, the Sharif family had failed to justify sources of money invested in the property and therefore, this was a case of owning assets beyond means.

The Sharif family stuck to its stance that the money given to Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz for establishing Al-Azizia, Hill Metal Establishment, Flagship Investment and other companies was part of the AED12m that their grandfather late Mian Sharif had invested with the Qatari royal family. The court was told that the late Mian Sharif established Gulf Steel Mills (GSM) in the UAE in 1974. Its 75 per cent shares were sold to one Abdullah Kayed Ahli and the entity was renamed Ahli Steel Mills (ASM) in 1978, while the remaining 25pc shares were sold to the ASM in 1980. This amount of AED12m was then invested with the Qatari royal family.

As Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani had never appeared before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to verify the statement, the defence counsel maintained that the JIT had made no serious effort to record his testimony that would have benefitted the defence case.

Amjad Mahmood in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2018