ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday heard the arguments of Nawaz Sharif’s counsel on petitions challenging the Avenfield reference verdict against the former prime minister, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar.
A two-judge bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb heard the petitions.
Accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir had on July 6 convicted Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar in the Avenfield properties reference and sentenced them to 10 years, seven years and one year, respectively, in prison.
On July 16, the Sharifs and Captain Safdar had filed appeals for the Avenfield verdict to be overturned.
As the hearing began, Nawaz’s counsel, Khawaja Harris, argued that he has not seen the statement of Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head and prosecution’s star witness Wajid Zia regarding the ownership of Avenfield properties.
To this, Justice Miangul questioned, “If the ownership has not been mentioned then what will be its effect?”
Contradictions can’t be identified if known-source not known: Haris
Responding to the judge, Haris said, “If a known-source is not known then contradictions can’t be identified.”
Justice Minallah then questioned, “Is it Nawaz’s stance that his father, Mian Sharif, distributed the property?”
In response, Nawaz’s counsel said, “His stance is that he has nothing to do with the properties or investments.”
To this, Justice Miangul asked whether an unnamed person has been mentioned in the judgment. Haris in response said, “The judgment only mentions guardianship.”
“Has anyone who is under guardianship been sentenced?” Justice Minallah questioned while adding that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) stated that Nawaz’s children were under his guardianship.
Haris, however, argued, “The children were not under Nawaz’s guardianship and there is no evidence of it on record.”
When Justice Minallah asked, under whose guardianship the children were in 1993, Nawaz’s counsel said, “Their grandfather was alive then.”
Further, in response to a question whether the business was joint during Mian Sharif’s lifetime, Haris said, “Everyone was a shareholder.”
Sentence, indictment charges contradictory: Haris
Nawaz’s counsel further said that the sentence and the indictment charges are contradictory.
“Wherever the properties have been mention, Nawaz’s son’s names are written and not his,” the former premier’s counsel upheld.
“The trail court judgment states that usually children are under the guardianship of their father and owing to that Nawaz is the owner,” he added.
Justice Minallah then remarked, “Children can also be under the guardianship of their grandfather. Was any evidence provided to show that they were under Nawaz’s guardianship?”
Haris responded in the negative and said, “Even Wajid Zia has said that there is no evidence or document to prove this.”
Justice Miangul then asked Haris regarding his earlier statement that Zia did not come across the actual worth of the property in any document provided. “If the worth of the property has not been mentioned in some documents then what will be its effect?” he asked.
Burden of proof is on NAB: Justice Minallah
Responding to Justice Miangul, Haris said, “If the worth of the property has not been mentioned then how can a conclusion be reached?”
Without knowledge of the known sources of income and the worth of the flats, it was said that Nawaz owns assets beyond his known sources of income.
“Statements of witnesses are present but none mentioned the worth of the property,” he further said.
Justice Minallah then remarked, “In our system, whose guardianship are the children under? The border of proof is on NAB.”
The bench then asked that if all three petitioners have the stance that Mian Sharif did the property settlement and asked if there is any document to prove that Nawaz is the owner of the flats.
“Prosecutors, witnesses and investigators did not produce any such document,” Haris replied.
Responding to Justice Miangul’s question whether Nawaz mentioned the Qatari prince during his speeches, Haris said he made no such mention.
Maryam, Capt Safdar’s counsel presents arguments
Justice Minallah then turned to Maryam’s counsel, Amjad Pervez, and said, “The sentence was not based on the issue of guardianship but an unnamed owner.”
“Trial court declared Maryam as beneficial owner and sentenced her for hiding her father’s property,” he said.
Pervez argued, “The indictment was not in line with NAB Ordinance Schedule 3A. The Supreme Court had said that if it is proven that fake documents were submitted then that matter would be referred to the relevant forum.”
“NAB witness Robert Radley was not an expert in identifying fonts,” he added.
“Maryam’s role will only be proven after it is proven that Nawaz is the owner of the property,” the counsel added.
Justice Minallah then remarked, “We have to look over the trial court judgment which states it is based on assumptions. A criminal sentence cannot be maintained on assumptions.”
Court has only heard one-sided arguments: NAB prosecutor
At this point, NAB prosecutor Akram Qureshi said, “Only one-sided arguments have been heard so far and we will satisfy the court on all matters.
Justice Minallah then asked him who prepared the chart of Nawaz’s assets. “Answer based on the evidence, we do not want to delve into details but can briefly overlook the documents available.”
He added, “The JIT said that there are no documents to prove Nawaz’s connection with the flats.
Maryam’s counsel added, “No evidence was presented against my client and she wasn’t even asked if she was under guardianship.”
When Justice Minallah in response asked his client’s stance, Pervez said, “She said that her grandfather was her guardian and he gave all family members pocket money.”
After Maryam’s counsel concluded arguments, the bench directed the NAB prosecutor to present his arguments tomorrow.
The hearing of the case has been adjourned till 12:15pm tomorrow.