• Anti-graft watchdog seeks adjournment to produce evidence in Avenfield case
• PML-N leader accuses Saqib Nisar of conspiring to derail the party
ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which had been seeking day-to-day hearing on Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice president Maryam Nawaz’s appeal against her conviction, sought a week-long adjournment on Wednesday after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) pointed out numerous flaws in the prosecution’s case.
On the other hand, Ms Nawaz, while talking to the media after the court’s proceeding, accused former chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar of being part of the conspiracy that derailed the PML-N.
The IHC division bench, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, resumed hearing on the appeals filed by Maryam Nawaz and retired Capt Mohammad Safdar against their conviction in the Avenfield apartments reference.
The bench asked NAB’s prosecution to elaborate on the evidence on the basis of which the bureau wanted the court to uphold the conviction of Ms Nawaz and Capt Safdar.
NAB prosecutor Usman Cheema argued that Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir had charged that Ms Nawaz was the beneficial owner of the offshore companies, Nelson and Nescol.
She was the beneficial owner of these companies that owned Avenfield apartments and then presented a forged trust deed in order to conceal the facts, the prosecutor said.
In a nutshell, the prosecution was of the view that Ms Nawaz aided and abetted Nawaz Sharif in acquiring the properties and failed to provide any legitimate source of income to purchase the apartments.
Justice Farooq asked the NAB’s prosecution to explain who was the actual owner of the London flats?
“If Nawaz Sharif is the owner, how can Maryam Nawaz be a beneficial owner,” he questioned.
Mr Cheema responded that there was a plethora of documents to prove Maryam Nawaz’s connivance in acquiring the flats.
Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani asked the prosecution if purchasing an apartment was a crime and whether a father required the consent of his daughter to transfer a property in her name.
Justice Farooq pointed out that the case was very simple, and instead of examining over 6,000 documents, NAB should present eight to 10 documents to substantiate that Maryam Nawaz was the beneficial owner and had aided and abetted her father in acquiring the properties through unfair means.
The NAB’s prosecutor referred to the Panama Leaks and said her name had emerged from one of the 11.5 million leaked documents, adding that a correspondence from 2012 disclosed that Maryam Nawaz was the beneficial owner of the two offshore companies.
According to him, during the course of investigation, the joint investigation team (JIT) had verified the letter from the British Virgin Island (BVI) authorities.
The bench, however, questioned how the investigator could rely on a letter from the year 2012. The trial started in 2018, therefore, the letter should be from the relevant dates, it added.
The court then asked the accountability bureau to share details of the stance adopted by Ms Nawaz for her defence during the trial proceeding.
The prosecution told the court that in her statement recorded under section 342 of the criminal procedure code, Ms Nawaz had stated that the flats were transferred to the Sharif family under an agreement with the Qatari Al-Thani family. The properties belonged to Al-Thani family and were settled against shares of Sharif-owned steel mill which was sold in 1980.
Justice Farooq reminded the prosecutor that since this was a criminal case, the standard of evidence should be higher than that of civil cases, adding that the bureau should discharge basic burden and establish ownership of Maryam Nawaz.
“We cannot go on conjectures,” he remarked.
Prosecutor Cheema again referred to the above-mentioned letter from 2012 and said the Supreme Court had also passed its observations on its basis.
“The trial proceeding should not be the consequence of the Supreme Court’s observation as it is altogether a different matter,” Justice Farooq observed.
“We will examine the evidence in accordance to our own laws and Qanoon-i-Shahadat,” he added.
Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi argued that a document procured through a foreign government was admissible evidence under Qanoon-i- Shahadat.
However, the bench reminded him that a mere letter could not be admissible evidence unless it was supported by the relevant record from the regulator concerned.
The IHC asked NAB’s prosecution if it was ready to produce the evidence, to which the prosecution replied that it (prosecution) would need time. Subsequently, the hearing was adjourned till Nov 24.
Maryam Nawaz said the former Supreme Court chief justice Saqib Nisar misused his authority to victimise the PML-N and intimidate politicians loyal to Nawaz Sharif.
She said the conspiracy against PML-N was first exposed by former justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui and then the late accountability judge, Arshad Malik.
“Now the former chief judge of the Gilgit-Baltistan Supreme Appellate Court, Rana Mohammad Shamim, has unfolded facts,” she added.
The PML-N vice president expressed the hope that IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, who enjoyed a good repute and commanded respect, would bring out the truth, adding that the former CJP should be summoned to ascertain the facts.
She also criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan for playing havoc with the economy, saying that prices of edible items were rising by the hour.
She said the only way forward was holding free and fair elections as the PML-N did not support any attempt for an in-house change.
Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2021