ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday issued non-bailable arrest warrants for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif while dismissing his application seeking exemption from personal appearance in the hearing of appeals against his conviction in the Al-Azizia and Avenfield Properties reference.
An IHC division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani issued a short order on the application and adjourned further hearing of the matter till Sept 22.
It may be mentioned that the same bench will hear the appeal of Maryam Nawaz and retired Captain Mohammad Safdar against their conviction in the Avenfied Properties reference on Sept 23.
During the course of hearing, Mr Sharif’s lead counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed argued that the federal and Punjab governments constituted a medical board to ascertain the condition of Mr Sharif.
He said that the board had recommended treatment of Mr Sharif abroad and, subsequently, the federal government removed his name from the exit control list (ECL).
NAB prosecutor tells IHC an ‘accused loses the audience the moment he absconds’
Khawaja Haris cited the terms and conditions of Mr Sharif’s departure according to which the federal government was supposed to verify the medical reports of the former premier in case he required to extend his stay abroad.
However, neither the federal government nor the Punjab authorities ever tried to verify the medical reports, he said.
Khawaja Haris said Mr Sharif was stuck in London, therefore, he requested the court not to initiate the proceedings to declare him a proclaimed offender.
Justice Kayani questioned whether or not Mr Sharif was admitted in any hospital till date, adding that if he was not in any hospital, he should come back.
Khawaja Haris replied that Mr Sharif consulted a number of hospitals and his medical consultants advised him not to travel till his cardiac treatment. The counsel explained that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the routine schedule of hospitals has been disturbed and they were not entertaining the requests other than in extreme emergency.
Khawaja Haris produced the latest medical reports before the court.
Justice Aamer Farooq inquired from Khawaja Haris as to why they did not approach the IHC seeking extension in bail.
Khawaja Haris replied that while granting eight-week bail to Mr Sharif, the court had asked him to file a representation before the Punjab government and in case of denial the accused was asked to challenge the decision at an appropriate forum.
According to Mr Sharif’s lead counsel, the forum where the decision of the Punjab government could be challenged was the Lahore High Court.
In response to the question of the court about the way forward, the counsel cited a number of judgements in which superior courts dealt with appeals of absconders.
He argued that the court might decide the appeals according to the merits of the case. He also cited the case of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf and said that the Supreme Court had allowed his lawyer to argue. But, he added, he was not given the right of audience before the special court seized with high treason trial of the former military ruler.
Jahanzeb Khan Bharwana, additional prosecutor general the National Accountability Bureau, argued before the court that as per the settled law, an accused loses the audience the moment he absconds. He said that the counsel of Mr Sharif has earlier produced such medical reports before the Supreme Court but these were not entertained.
He requested the court to initiate proceedings to declare Mr Sharif a proclaimed offender since his bail had lapsed and despite being a convict, he did not surrender.
Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2020