ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court will take up on Tuesday a petition seeking suspension of seven-year sentence awarded to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif by an accountability court in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference.

A two-member IHC bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani on Monday resumed the hearing of Mr Sharif’s plea.

Mr Sharif, through his counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed, has filed two petitions under Article 199 of the Constitution for suspension of sentence and subsequent release on bail.

In one petition, Mr Sharif is seeking suspension of the sentence on legal grounds. The other petition prayed for his release on medical grounds.

The IHC bench had on Jan 28 sought replies from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the superintendent of Central Jail, Lahore.

The SP jail has filed his reply along with medical reports of Mr Sharif, while NAB’s response is still awaited.

In the reply, the SP jail informed the IHC that its order was received on Feb 4 “regarding the medical reports of NAB convicted prisoner Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif S/O Mian Mohammad Sharif involved in the case …He was admitted in this jail on December 25, 2018”.

The reply stated “please find enclosed herewith the medical reports written by the Medical Officer of this jail regarding the subject cited prisoner”.

During the course of arguments, defence counsel Khawaja Haris sought withdrawal of earlier petition that was filed on legal grounds and requested the court to entertain the petition seeking suspension of the sentence on medical grounds.

It may be mentioned that a recent judgement of the Supreme Court on the appeal against suspension of the sentence of Mr Sharif has outlined certain criteria for granting bail, especially in NAB references. The apex court has made it clear that bail concessions could be offered to any accused only in extreme hardship.

The high court adjourned further hearing on the matter, asking the counsel to argue his case while keeping in mind the legal aspects.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2019