• Lawyers finalise three petitions for bail in Avenfield, Al-Azizia, Toshakhana vehicle cases
• IHC has previously granted protective bail to Sharjeel Memon, Arbab Alamgir and others, without prior surrender of convict

ISLAMABAD: The legal team of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has completed its preparations to procure protective bail for the elder Sharif, with at least three petitions likely to be filed in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in the coming days, seeking relief in the Avenfield, Al-Azizia and Toshakhana cases.

The PML-N supreme leader is all set to return to Lahore on October 21, where he is slated to address a public gathering.

Mr Sharif was convicted in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia references and was declared a proclaimed offender in the Toshakhana vehicle case, pending before an accountability court in Islamabad. He was on bail in these cases when he proceeded to the UK for medical treatment.

Sources privy to the development said that the petitions seeking protective bail were likely to be filed before the IHC.

The decision to move the IHC was ostensibly driven by some previous decisions of the court, wherein it had granted protective bail to those who absconded and were declared proclaimed offenders, including Sharjeel Inam Memon, Arbab Alamgir, and Asma Arbab among others.

Previously, protective bail could only be granted in case the convict surrendered before the court. However, in these cases, the IHC had set a precedent of granting protective bail without surrender.

According to court sources, there would be at least two hearings — one prior to his arrival and a second one in which Mr Sharif is supposed to surrender before the court.

Sources further said that following his surrender, Mr Sharif will need to pursue pending appeals against his conviction in Avenfield Apartment and Al-Azizia references, as well as a trial pending in the Toshakhana vehicle case.

The Toshakhana case had been shelved under the NAB amendments; however, it was reopened after the Supreme Court scrapped the said amendments and asked the watchdog to revive the corruption cases.

In 2018, courts convicted the elder Sharif in two cases — Avenfield Apartments and Al-Azizia references. Mr Sharif, however, was acquitted in the Flagship reference. Late judge Arshad Malik convicted him in the Al-Azizia reference.

The late judge subsequently claimed that he allegedly authored the judgement under duress. Mr Sharif was granted bail in this case for eight weeks, and then proceeded to the UK for medical treatment. In the case of Avenfield Apartments, Mr Sharif was also declared an absconder.

IHC judgement

However, an IHC judgement which acquitted Maryam Nawaz Sharif and her spouse virtually cleared the elder Sharif of all allegations. In the judgement, the division bench discussed the role of Nawaz Sharif in order to connect Maryam Nawaz and her husband Muhammad Safdar to the alleged crime.

The court order stated that Maryam Nawaz was “convicted for production of bogus trust deeds and being instrumental in concealment of properties of her father…”.

Nevertheless, as Mr Sharif was an absconder, the bench decided to look into the role of Mr Sharif in the Avenfield case.

“It is abundantly clear that the allegations levelled are vague inasmuch as precise role of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and his aider and abettor [Maryam]… has not been specified in categorical terms,” the court said,

The bench observed that “the case of appellants [Maryam Nawaz and Capt Safdar] cannot be separated from the case of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and some of the observations need to be made, as liability of appellant No.1 [Maryam Nawaz] directly hinges on the culpability of the principal accused”.

The court had noted that the prosecution did not evaluate the worth of Avenfield Apartments with the known sources of income of Mr Sharif.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2023

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