ISLAMABAD, Nov 29 (APP):The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday acquitted Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid Muhammad Nawaz Sharif in the Avenfield property reference setting aside his conviction by the accountability court.
The IHC bench comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb announced the verdict in the appeal of former prime minister against his conviction.
The PML-N Quaid appeared before the court along with his legal team.
During the course of proceedings, Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer Amjad Parvaiz pleaded that co-accused Maryam Nawaz and Captain (R) Safdar had already been acquitted in the instant reference, and that decision had become final as it was never challenged by the prosecution.
The lawyer read out various sections of the NAB Ordinance and said that it had defined ‘benamidar’ as well.
He said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had to first provide a comparison of income and assets value in order to establish the point that the assets’ value was higher than the income or not.
Without such comparison, the case of assets beyond sources of income could not be proceeded, he added.
He further said that there were cases where the value of the assets was known but not the income. In such cases, the courts declared that the case could not be instituted since the income was not known.
Amjad Parvaiz said the property in question was purchased during 1993 to 1996. The appellant had no connection with the property and the prosecution also could not prove it, he added.
To a court’s query, the lawyer said that firstly the prosecution had to prove the accused as a public office holder, and then his dependents as ‘benamidars’.
He further said that NAB could not prove even one of the allegations levelled against his client. In the Panama verdict, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) and NAB investigation reports did not point out Nawaz Sharif’s connection with the property.
JIT’s head Wajid Zia admitted that there was no evidence to prove Nawaz Sharif’s connection with the property, he added.
He said that it had also to be indicated in the indictment that the one’s assets did not match with the declared income. The value of properties was not even determined by NAB or JIT and in the court’s verdict.
At this point, the IHC chief justice noted that the reference had only three to four pages.
Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer contended that the prosecution had to prove that Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz were dependents of his client but no evidence was produced in that regard.
He said that the burden of proof was never shifted to the defence rather it was for the prosecution to establish the case.
He said there was also no evidence that the property remained in the ownership or custody of Nawaz Sharif, and the trial court announced the verdict on the basis of mere assumption.
Additionally, the court had already acquitted Maryam Nawaz in the reference as the prosecution could not present any documented evidence in favour of its charges, he added.
Justice Miangul Hassan remarked that the court had declared in some verdicts that four elements ought to be established for declaring a ‘benamidar’. Even if one of those was not proved, then the individual concerned would not fall into the category of benami, he added.
To the court’s question, the NAB prosecutor said that the references at that time were filed following the Supreme Court’s decision.
On this, Justice Aurangzeb remarked:”You want to say that you were bound to file the reference. We understand that filing the reference was a compulsion for NAB.”
The prosecutor said the Bureau did not file an appeal against the acquittal of Maryam Nawaz at that time, and now that decision had become final.
The court then inquired whether the instant appeal should also be accepted.
At this stage, the NAB prosecutor said that the Bureau was also withdrawing the appeal against the acquittal of Nawaz Sharif in the Flagship investment reference, and the court accepted the request.
After the two sided concluded arguments, the court declared the verdict of accountability court as null and void, and acquitted the former prime minister of charges of making assets beyond known source of income.
It may be mentioned that in July 2018, an accountability court had convicted the PML-N leader in the Avenfield property reference