Nawaz's petition seeking suspension of jail sentence in Al-Azizia case shelved

07 Jan 2019

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Court says petition cannot be heard until Nawaz's earlier appeal on the same matter is set for hearing. — AFP/File
Court says petition cannot be heard until Nawaz's earlier appeal on the same matter is set for hearing. — AFP/File

The Islamabad High Court on Monday postponed the hearing of a petition seeking suspension of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif's ­jail sentence in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills/Hill Metals Establishment reference.

Accountability Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik had on Dec 24, 2018 convicted Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference and awarded him seven years imprisonment, besides imposing fines of Rs1.5 billion and $25 million on the PML-N quaid.

The ex-prime minister’s legal team comprising lead defence counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed, Barrister Munawwar Duggal, Zubair Khalid and others had last week filed the petition as well as an appeal against Sharif's conviction in the Al-Azizia reference.

A two-judge bench headed by IHC Chief Justice Ather Minallah today decided to indefinitely postpone the matter as the petition cannot be heard unless the appeal is set for hearing. The petition will be taken up when a date is set for the hearing of the appeal.

Defence lawyer Khawaja Haris insisted that the court hear the case as the appeal has been fixed for hearing after the court holidays, which end tomorrow.

Last week, the IHC Registrar's Office had raised some administrative objections to the petition as the legal team submitted with it over 4,000 documents, including papers in foreign languages. Some documents were not readable due to which the petition was fixed for hearing after a delay.

A defence lawyer on Saturday removed these objections after which the Registrar's Office fixed the case for a preliminary hearing.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has also filed appeals in the IHC seeking enhancement of Sharif’s sentence from seven to 14 years. Additionally, the watchdog has challenged Sharif’s acquittal in the Flagship Investment reference.

The Supreme Court had on July 28, 2017, while deciding petitions of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and other political leaders, disqualified Sharif and directed NAB to file three references — Avenfield Properties, Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment — against Sharif and other members of his family in the accountability court.

Accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir had on July 6, 2018 convicted Sharif in the Avenfield reference and ­sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

However, an IHC division bench comprising Chief Justice Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb suspended the sentence in the Avenfield reference.

NAB has filed an appeal against the ­suspension of sentence, which is pending adjudication before the Supreme Court.