PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz talking to reporters outside the court on Thursday.—Online
PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz talking to reporters outside the court on Thursday.—Online

• Judge observes deed can be termed back-dated
• Maryam claims some PTI ministers, MNAs ready to ‘jump ship’

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday observed that the trust deed executed by Maryam Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz in connection with the Avenfield properties was not forged.

An IHC division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, while hearing appeals of PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz and her husband retired Capt Muhammad Safdar against their conviction in the Avenfield properties reference, noted that since both siblings, Maryam and Hussain, never disowned the said trust deed, it could not be termed forged.

According to Justice Farooq: “The trust deed can be termed back-dated or that the font used in the said document was different, but this cannot be called forgery.”

In the reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Ms Nawaz has been facing the charge of producing before the Supreme Court an allegedly forged trust deed scripted in the Calibri font that, according to the joint investigation team’s (JIT) report, was not available for users at the time the deed was prepared in 2006. The trust deed was also signed by Maryam’s husband Safdar as a witness.

During the hearing, NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Khan Abbasi told the court that the Financial Investigation Agency of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) confirmed that Ms Nawaz was the beneficial owner of two offshore companies — Nielson and Nescoll — that owned the Avenfield apartments.

However, when the bench sought evidence, Mr Abbasi pointed out two letters from June 2012 written by the investigation agency to the law firm, Mossack Fonseca, and vice versa.

Justice Farooq asked him to demonstrate whether these letters were admissible under the Pakistani Qanoon-i-Shahadat (law of evidence).

The prosecutor replied that since the letters were procured in accordance with Section 21(g) of the National Accountability Ordinance, they could be presented before the court as evidence.

Justice Kayani then asked him to read out the said section.

The said section stated: “All evidence, documents or any other material transferred to Pakistan by a Foreign Government shall be receivable as evidence in legal proceedings.”

Justice Farooq reminded him that “receivable” did not mean that the law exempts admissibility of such evidence as defined under the Qanoon-i-Shahadat.

The bench observed that the letters of June 2012 were a correspondence between two organisations, and the letter that confirmed Ms Nawaz’s beneficial ownership was written by a law firm.

“Did anyone who authored these documents depose before the court?” asked Justice Farooq.

The prosecutor replied in the negative.

When Mr Abbasi read out before the court a statement of the head of the Panama Papers JIT, Wajid Zia, which was recorded as a prosecution witness, the bench noted that it appeared the prosecution’s case was based on the investigation officer’s statement.

At the outset, Irfan Qadir, the counsel for Ms Nawaz, argued before the court that the only evidence against his client was a two-letter correspondence between a law firm and BVI’s Financial Investigation Agency.

He pointed out that both the letters were not original and the trial court judge convicted Ms Nawaz over photocopies of these letters.

Maryam Nawaz’s talk

After the hearing, Maryam Nawaz said the court’s proceedings had brought the truth to the fore, adding that lies won’t always work and truth had finally prevailed.

Replying to questions from reporters, she said the time was ripe to move a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan. All the indicators appeared favourable, as the prime minister was no more acceptable to the institutions either, and the public had rejected him.

The PML-N leader claimed that some ministers and MNAs of the ruling party were ready to “jump ship” as they believed the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s days were numbered.

According to her, the events had taken such a turn due to the failure of Imran Khan, who had allegedly brought the economy on the verge of a collapse, the prices of edible items had skyrocketed and the law and order situation had deteriorated.

Ms Nawaz said PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, who was not in favour of a no-confidence move, had been convinced about removing Imran Khan, as her party leadership believed that giving the prime minister more time would be injustice with the people.

She, however, said the opposition parties would deliberate on the candidate for the next PM after the success of the no-confidence move.

Later, speaking at a news conference, PML-N senior vice president Shahid Khaqan Abbasi lashed out at the PTI government for continuing its alleged policy of victimising its opponents, particularly Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, through the NAB despite failing to produce any evidence before the courts in around four years.

Mr Abbasi demanded the government place the names of NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal and former adviser to the prime minister on accountability Shahzad Akbar on the Exit Control List so they could not flee the country with their assets.

He said both the NAB chairman and the former adviser should be held accountable for spending millions of rupees of taxpayers’ money on the so-called investigations into fake cases against Mr Sharif.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2022

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