ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday assured the Islamabad High Court (IHC) of timely compliance with its direction and subsequent filing of a report as the court adjourned hearing of a petition seeking suspension of the sentence of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al Azizia reference case.
Director General of NAB’s Rawalpindi Directorate Irfan Naeem Mangi appeared before the IHC division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb to explain the delay in the filing of a reply to Mr Sharif’s petition.
On June 11, the high court had observed that the lethargic attitude of NAB caused delay in swift disposal of the cases and summoned Director General Mangi for not filing the reply in the appeal filed by the former premier.
Justice Farooq pointed out that NAB has repeatedly delayed filing of a reply despite repeated directions of the court. NAB did not bother to file comments despite four or five reminders even in the petitions seeking post-arrest bail of the accused persons, he observed, adding that due to inordinate delay in filing of the reply, an under custody accused had to be kept in detention unnecessarily.
Explains delay in response to Nawaz Sharif’s appeal
Mr Mangi explained that due to workload he could not ensure submission of NAB’s response in time and assured the court of timely filing of reply in future.
Arguing the petition, Mr Sharif’s lead defence counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed informed the court that the former premier was seeking suspension of sentence and subsequent release for medical reasons.
When the court inquired whether a petition could be filed on medical grounds twice, Mr Haris replied that it depended upon the patient’s condition, adding that there were several legal precedents in which the superior courts entertained the petitions of a single accused more than once.
The counsel asserted that Sharif Medical Complex constituted a special medical board to ascertain Mr Sharif’s health condition which opined that his ailment was of serious nature and he needed immediate treatment.
The counsel said that the former premier was under immense depression because of ailments as he was suffering from heart problems, diabetes and hypertension.
Mr Haris said due to the gravity of his health condition the former prime minister required treatment abroad and preferably from the same physician who had treated him in the past.
Citing a report of medical doctors, the defence counsel told the court that the treatment and facilities required for Mr Sharif were available abroad only.
In its reply, NAB expressed doubts about the medical board’s reports and stated that Mr Sharif’s ailments were not life-threatening and the prison authorities were providing him adequate medical facilities.
According to NAB, similar arguments were presented before the Supreme Court, but it initially suspended the sentence for six weeks and later rejected the review petition.
The petition had stated that according to Mr Sharif’s medical reports he had been suffering from numerous dangerous diseases.
The medical experts had stated that Mr Sharif’s condition was critical and his treatment was not possible in jail. The petition stated that former prime minister’s political rivals had been terming his bail plea an attempt to avail an “NRO” which was a contempt of court.
The petition stated that it wouldn’t affect the prosecution case if Mr Sharif’s sentence was suspended till the final judgement on his appeal against trial court’s verdict in the Al Azizia Steel Mills case.
The accountability court of Islamabad had on Dec 24 last year convicted Mr Sharif in the Al Azizia reference and sentenced him for seven years imprisonment with a fine of Rs1.5 billion and $25 million along with forfeiture of assets.
Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2019