ISLAMABAD - Registrar office of the Islamabad High Court Friday returned for a second time an appeal of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif challenging an accountability court’s verdict against him in Al-Azizia corruption reference after raising objections over it.

After raising objections, the office also returned the two separate petitions of National Accountability Bureau against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s acquittal in the Flagship Reference and challenging the accountability court’s verdict in Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference requesting the IHC to extend former premier’s jail sentence in the reference.

However, the NAB prosecutor filed the petitions again after removing objections of Registrar. Similarly, it is likely that the counsel of former prime minister will again file his appeal for the third time on Saturday (today) after removing the objections. The registrar office had raised objection over NAB’s pleas saying that no affidavit was attached with them. At this, the NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar adopted before the office that there is no need of any affidavit with the petitions being filed by the state. The IHC office received the petitions after accepting the NAB prosecutor’s stance.

Similarly, the office had raised objection over Nawaz Sharif’s appeal saying that there are some documents which are unreadable. However, his counsel could not remove the objection and took back the appeal. Now, it is likely that the same would be filed on Saturday (today).

In his 62-pages appeal, the former prime minister prayed to the court to set aside his conviction and the sentence awarded to him by the Accountability Court (AC) Islamabad on December 24, 2018 in the said reference.

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

The petitioner who approached the IHC through his counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmad Advocate, also sought suspension of the seven-year imprisonment sentence and Rs1.5 billion fine awarded by AC Judge Arshad Malik on December 24 in a corruption reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (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 the verdict without hearing objections by the accused.

The Al Azizia verdict said that the accused No 1 (Nawaz Sharif) was held guilty for the offence of corruption and corrupt practices and accordingly, is convicted under section 10 of the 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 seven 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 ten 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 the learned trial court judge in the instant case are not only against the evidence brought on the record of the case but also in derogation of the law laid down by the august Supreme Court of Pakistan.”

Khawaja Haris contended, “We are not persuaded to agree with learned deputy prosecutor general NAB that conviction could have awarded in view of the provision as contained in section 14 of NAB Ordinance, 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 the 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 guility.”

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 …”

Therefore, he maintained that the said judgment, conviction and sentence are even otherwise 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.