Avenfield reference: IHC adjourns hearing on Maryam's appeal due to absence of NAB prosecutor

Published December 21, 2021
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz speaks to the media at the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday. — DawnNewsTV
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz speaks to the media at the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday. — DawnNewsTV

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday adjourned the hearing on appeals of PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and her husband retired captain Mohammad Safdar against their conviction in the Avenfield reference after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor filed an application for the same.

This is the second time the hearing was adjourned without any arguments. On November 24, the court had accepted the request filed by Maryam's counsel, Advocate Irfan Qadir, to adjourn the hearing without any proceedings because of him being occupied with another case in the Supreme Court.

The court had subsequently adjourned the hearing on the appeals till Dec 21.

However, NAB prosecutor Usman Rashid Cheema filed an application for adjournment of today's hearing, stating that he has a "high fever with excruciating body aches and pains" besides which he is also experiencing loss of smell and taste.

Doctors had advised him to undergo quarantine and bed rest which was why he was unable to travel to the court, the prosecutor said in the application, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com.

Subsequently, a two-member bench, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, adjourned the hearing till January 18.

During the last hearing in November when Maryam's lawyer skipped the hearing and filed the application for adjournment, the government took it as an opportunity to blame the PML-N vice president for adopting delaying tactics.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had blamed Maryam for seeking 16 adjournments since August 2018 when she filed an appeal before the IHC against her conviction in the Avenfield apartments reference.

"Sixteenth application to seek adjournment from Maryam Nawaz, and organised propaganda against judiciary and armed forces, hence these people are not less than Sicilian Mafia," the minister tweeted.

'A respectable person would have said goodbye'

Speaking to reporters outside the IHC today, Maryam said NAB had "no proof" to give to the court in the Avenfield reference. The bureau had previously been filing applications for daily hearings but was now filing application for adjournment, she said.

Commenting on the results of the KP polls, Maryam said "a respectable person would have said goodbye" and left office. In the future, there would be no people willing to contest elections on PTI tickets as it would come to be seen as a symbol of "disgrace", she added.

She advised those who would contest on PTI tickets "to go [asking for votes] with helmets" because the people were angry at the ruling party's performance due to the way they were "crushed by inflation, historic incompetence and failure" and how the 5.8 per cent economic growth rate achieved during the PML-N government's tenure was "driven into the ground".

Calling the results decisions by people from across the country, Maryam said this was the "first sitting government that lost by-elections one by one".

"They were incapable of fighting the by-election in Lahore and got relief on technical grounds," she said and recalled the Khanewal by-poll in which the PML-N candidate defeated PTI's candidate by more than 10,000 votes.

She termed the results of KP by-polls a "shameful, worst" indictment of the PTI, saying, "If he (Prime Minister Imran Khan) was a respectable man, he would have said goodbye and left".

"I think it is valid to say today that the opportunity is still there [for PM Imran to] leave the people alone [and] say I am unsuccessful and I cannot run this country."

The PML-N president also congratulated the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) — which managed to grab the highest number of mayor / chairman seats in the elections for 39 tehsils of KP — for its "tremendous performance".

Responding to a question about whether she believed the 'establishment' had been neutral in the KP local body elections, Maryam said: "The results are there. I cannot say anything about [the establishment] but I can definitely say that Imran Khan's performance cannot be supported by any power in the world. He has been crushed by his own performance."

Regarding reports that PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif would be declared the PML-N's prime ministerial candidate in the 2023 general elections, Maryam said the decision would be taken by the party when the time arrived.

"Shehbaz Sharif's relationship with me is one of father and daughter. But he is also the party president, he is the senior-most [official] but keeping this aside, I believe the party will take the decision when the time arrives."

The power to make that decision had been placed in former prime minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, she said. "What can be of greater happiness for me than to see Shehbaz Sharif [in power]? Everyone will be standing behind him. We will support him but the decision will be taken by the party when the time arrives," she added.

Conviction and appeal

On July 6, a few weeks before the elections in 2018, the accountability judge of Islamabad, who was working under the supervision of an apex court judge, convicted the Sharif family in the Avenfield apartment reference.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was handed 10 years as jail time for owning assets beyond known income and one year for not cooperating with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Meanwhile, Maryam was given 7 years for abetment after she was found "instrumental in concealment of the properties of her father" and one year for non-cooperation with the bureau.

The Sharif family had filed appeals against its conviction before the IHC in the second week of August 2018.

In October this year, Maryam filed a new application, along with "extremely relevant, simple and clear-cut facts", with the IHC seeking annulment of that verdict.

In her application, Maryam stated that the entire proceedings that resulted in her conviction were a "classic example of outright violations of law and political engineering hitherto unheard of in the history of Pakistan".

She also attached a reference to the speech made by former IHC judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui at the District Bar Association, Rawalpindi on July 21, 2018, wherein he had claimed that the country's top intelligence agency was involved in manipulating judicial proceedings.

"The ISI officials had approached the chief justice asking him to make sure Nawaz and his daughter should not be bailed before the elections," read the petition, quoting an excerpt from ex-judge Siddiqui's speech.

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