ISLAMABAD: As an accountability court in Islamabad gave PML-N leader Ishaq Dar a clean chit in an assets beyond means case on Monday, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif formally filed two separate applications seeking restoration of his appeals against the conviction in the Avenfield Apartments and Al-Azizia references.

IHC division bench comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb will hear these applications along with the petition seeking his protective bail in these cases. Mr Sharif was convicted in Avenfield and Al-Azizia references in 2018.

In the applications, the PML-N supreme leader said that while he was abroad for medical treatment, the pending appeals were dismissed for non-prosecution. The applications requested the court to revive the pending appeals to make a decision on these pleas on merit.

The applications stated that Nawaz Sharif never took advantage of the bail granted to him in all the cases. The plea also cited that the ousted premier went abroad with the permission of the court concerned.

Dar gets clean chit in assets beyond means case

The plea further stated Nawaz Sharif’s absence from the court was not deliberate or due to malice, highlighting that the former prime minister did not appear in the court on medical grounds as his treatment was delayed due to the coronavirus epidemic.

It claimed that Nawaz Sharif had not fully recovered, yet he decided to return after witnessing the “deteriorating economic conditions of the country and the challenges faced on various fronts”.

Accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir had on July 6, 2018, convicted Mr Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Mohammad Safdar in the Avenfield apartments reference that was probed by a six-member joint investigation team constituted to look into the Panama Papers.

The trial court had also accused Ms Nawaz of being the beneficial owner of offshore companies that owned the properties. After the Avenfield case, late accountability judge Arshad Malik convicted Mr Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference but absolved him in the Flagship Investment case in December same year. Judge Arshad, however, in a leaked conversation ostensibly admitted that he sentenced the PML-N leader under duress.

Subsequently, he was removed from the accountability court and was repatriated to his parent department Lahore High Court (LHC). He was facing the inquiry and was ultimately removed from the service. He died during the Covid-19 pandemic on Dec 4, 2020.

Dar gets clean chit

The accountability court cleared former finance minister Ishaq Dar after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) conceded that it “lacked evidence to substantiate the allegations” of corruption.

The accountability court ruled that “there is no incriminating evidence” against Dar and NAB had also informed that the probe could not find the proof of alleged corruption.

According to the prosecution, the former finance minister’s assets had grown manifold from Rs9.1 million in 1982-83 to Rs831.6 million in 2008.

Last week, the accountability judge Mohammad Bashir reserved the decision to re-hear the assets reference against Ishaq Dar.

During the hearing on Monday, NAB’s special prosecutor Afzal Qureshi informed the judge that the bureau could not obtain “tangible evidence” to prove the allegations against the senator.

He argued that the prosecution was of the view that the case could not be proceeded further for want of evidence. The judge sought NAB’s response in writing which was submitted in the court.

According to Dar’s counsel Qazi Misbah, the joint investigation team probing the Panama Papers case did not produce any evidence against Mr Dar and the investigation was “marred with flaws”.

Subsequently, the court cleared Mr Dar as well as the co-accused, including ex-president of the National Bank of Pakistan Saeed Ahmed.

The same court on November 22, 2022, dropped the proceedings against Mr Dar and returned the case file to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

It may be noted that the court on Dec 11, 2017, declared Ishaq Dar a proclaimed offender and attached his movable and immovable properties. It had also cancelled his perpetual arrest warrant upon his surrender on Oct 10.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2023

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