ISLAMABAD  -   The National Accountability Bureau on Wednesday approached the Islamabad High Court against former premier Mian Nawaz Sharif’s acquittal in Flagship reference.

In its appeal, the NAB also challenged the accountability court’s verdict in Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference and prayed to the IHC to extend former premier’s jail sentence in the reference.

The anti-graft body filed the appeal through its additional deputy prosecutor general Sardar Muzaffar Ahmed Khan under section 32 of NAB Ordinance 1999 along with all enabling and applicable provisions of law for setting the judgment passed by the Accountability Court-II, Islamabad against Nawaz Sharif in the judgment dated December 24, 2018.

In its appeal, the NAB prayed to the court to declare accountability court’s Flagship reference verdict as null and void. “The institution provided concrete evidence against Nawaz Sharif,” NAB stated, adding that it is illegal to acquit former PM on the mere basis of the benefit of the doubt.

According to the appeal, “The judgment of Accountability Court is against facts and law, hence not sustainable in the eye of law and liable to be set aside. The AC passed the judgment without adverting to the evidence available on record and passed the judgment in slipshod and cursory manner. There is absolute misreading and non-reading of the evidence tendered by the prosecution so much so that the prosecution witnesses stood the test of being sagacious and tendered un-implacable depositions despite lengthy cross-examination and in failure to adduce defence evidence, the accused did not tender any rebuttal evidence whereby the prosecution established and proved its case under section 9 (a) (v) read with 9 (a) (xii) and the application of section 14 (c) of NAO, 1999.

Therefore, it maintained that the order of acquittal is absolutely unwarranted, illegal and in contravention of the applicable law and the assailed judgment merits to be set aside and accordingly the accused may be convicted under section 10 of NAO, 1999.

The appeal also contended that the accountability court wrongly extended benefit of doubt to Nawaz Sharif despite the fact that the assets of the family business are common and the accused is the head of the family.

“The prosecution through cogent and reliable evidence established that the accused had been the public office holder, has established assets through his ‘benamidr(s)’ who are real sons and had admittedly no source of income for holding these assets and these assets as per available record are beyond the known sources of income of the accused,” said the appeal filed by NAB.

Therefore, it was prayed to the court that the impugned judgment passed by AC-II Islamabad may be set aside and Nawaz Sharif may be convicted and sentenced in accordance with law.

Meanwhile, the registrar office of Islamabad High Court on Wednesday returned an appeal of Nawaz Sharif challenging accountability court’s verdict against him in Al-Azizia corruption reference.

The office returned the petition after raising objections over it, saying that the same was in incomplete. It added that the appeal might be filed again after removing the objections.

In his 62-page appeal, the former prime minister prayed to the court to set aside his conviction and the sentence awarded to him by the Accountability Court, Islamabad on December 24 in the said reference.

Referring the legal lacunas in the judgment of the AC, Sharif also requested the court to acquit him of all charges framed against him in National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reference No 19 of 2017.

The petitioner, who approached the IHC through his counsel Khawaja Haris, also sought suspension of the 7-year jail term and Rs1.5 billion fine awarded by AC Judge Arshad Malik on December 24 in a corruption reference filed by the NAB.

In his petition, Nawaz maintained that the decision was based on assumptions and false interpretation of law while the evidences were misperceived and the accountability court announced verdict without hearing objections by the accused.

The Al Azizia verdict said that the accused No 1 (Nawaz Sharif) was held guilty for offence of corruption and corrupt practices and accordingly, is convicted under section 10 of NAO 1999 ‘read with schedule thereto’.

“And consequent upon his conviction, having regard to the facts and the circumstances of the case, the convict is hereby sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a term of 7 years along with a fine of Rs1.2 billion and $25 million,” said the order.

According to the verdict, Sharif is disqualified to hold any public office for a period of 10 years. Likewise, he will not be allowed to apply for or be granted or allowed any financial facilities in the form of loan or advances or other financial accommodation by any bank or financial institution owned or controlled by the government for a period of 10 years from the date.

Sharif’s counsel stated in the appeal, “The findings given by the trial court judge in the case are not only against the evidences brought on the record of the case but also in derogation of the law laid down by the august Supreme Court.”

Khawaja Haris contended, “We are not persuaded to agree with the deputy prosecutor general NAB that conviction could have been awarded in view of the provision as contained in section 14 of NAO 1999 for the simple reason that ‘the section cannot be used to undermine the well-established rule of law that save in every exceptional class of cases, the burden to prove the guilt of the accused is on prosecution and never shifts. The section does not affect the onus of providing the guilt of an accused which always rests on the prosecution and it does not cast any burden on an accused person to prove that no crime was committed, by proving facts specially within his knowledge, nor does it warrant the conclusion that if anything is unexplained which the court thinks the accused could explain, he ought therefore, to be guilty.”

He argued that it would be misconception of law that every accused who faced trial in the accountability court or against whom a reference has been sent, the ‘presumption as envisaged in section 14 of the NAB Ordinance 1999’ would start running against him. “Where the prosecution has failed to discharge the onus of ‘proof’ by adducing cogent, concrete and forthright evidence the presumption of guilt would not arise against him and thus the question of conviction would have not arisen”.

So, he maintained that the said judgment, conviction and sentence are illegal, without jurisdiction, unwarranted by law, based on inadmissible evidence and unproven documents and on misconception and misinterpretation of law and liable to be set aside as such.