LAHORE: The 34-year-old case against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was reopened for “political victimisation” and to damage his reputation, said the accountability court verdict which acquitted Mr Sharif of all charges.

The detailed verdict issued on Thursday was hailed by several PML-N leaders as the “vindication” of the party’s supreme leader.

The proceedings started in 2020 when during the PTI government, the National Account­ability Bureau (NAB) filed a reference alleging that Jang Group owner Mir Shakilur Rehman had illegally obtained exemption of 54 plots, each measuring one kanal, in Block-H of Lahore’s Johar Town. It alleged that the allotment was made in connivance with the then chief minister of Punjab, Nawaz Sharif, in 1986 for monetary gains.

Mr Sharif was given a clean chit of any wrongdoing through a short-order passed on June 24. Earlier, Mr Rehman and other principal accused, including former Lahore Development Authority director general Humayon Faiz Rasool and former LDA director of land development department Mian Bashir Ahmad were acquitted on Jan 31.

The detailed verdict of the ex-PM’s acquittal which came out on Thursday, said: “The record reflects that the accused Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had become the victim of political victimisation, and perhaps the NAB authorities were constrained to prepare the reference at the behest of the then ruling junta to damage and destroy the political career and goodwill of the accused who had been three-time elected prime minister of Pakistan.”

PML-N celebrates detailed verdict; PM says his elder brother stands ‘vindicated’

In his verdict, Judge Rao Abdul Jabbar Khan said the order passed by his predecessor declaring Mr Sharif a proclaimed offender “was not in line” with the parameters devised by the Supreme Court.

The former judge had not only declared Mr Sharif a proclaimed offender but also ordered an auction of his assets. Mr Sharif was out of the country when the inquiry was initiated and a reference was filed against him.

Judge Khan said the case record was silent regarding procedure under sections 87 and 88 of CrPC including the issuance of warrants and publication of proclamations to declare Mr Sharif a proclaimed offender.

“The court was never supposed to be a silent spectator, sitting with blind eyes and deaf ears” as settled by the Supreme Court, the verdict stated.

The judge ruled that Mr Sharif was entitled to the same relief given to the principal accused, having a lesser role and better legal footing compared to the acquitted accused.

The court concluded that no loss was caused to the LDA from any act of the accused or co-accused as the prosecution admitted that the reserved price was paid in time.

PML-N hails verdict

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb have said the verdict proved the PML-N supreme leader was deliberately implicated by the PTI government.

Prime Minister Shehbaz said the acquittal proved the case was meant to politically damage his elder brother, APP reported.

The information minister, Ms Aurangzeb, said NAB was pressurised by the PTI regime to create false cases against the PML-N leader.

She said under the “NAB-Niazi nexus” — a reference to the collusion between the accountability watchdog and the then PM Imran Khan — the bureau was given a task to target political opponents of the PTI chief.

“Today, the accountability court had affirmed that Nawaz Sharif was targeted for political vengeance,” she said, adding the court found no evidence of corruption against him.

The owner of a leading media house was arrested in a fake case just to pressurise the media to toe the then government’s line, Ms Aurangzeb claimed.

In his remarks, Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal said those who called Mr Sharif “Sicilian Mafia” were gradually being exposed.

He was referring to the statement of former PTI leader and eminent lawyer Hamid Khan in which he said the decision to disqualify Mr Sharif as prime minister was taken much before the Supreme Court verdict.

Talking to the media after addressing a ceremony at the University of Education in Lahore, the minister said those who were part of the conspiracy were now testifying to the innocence of Mr Sharif.

“Pakistan was punished by removing Nawaz Sharif from power through an unconstitutional step, a conspiracy to bring an incompetent favourite into the government.”

Amjad Mahmood and Kalbe Ali in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2023

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