LAHORE  -  Legal experts Friday said Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz had no option to get relief in their conviction except to come and surrender to the court of law.

The appeal, they held, was a right of every convict and it could be filed before the court of competent jurisdiction from anywhere, but suspension of the sentence was not possible for Nawaz Sharif, Maryam and Capt (r) Safdar if they failed to appear before the court.

The state authorities, the lawyers stated, could forfeit the assets owned by Nawaz Sharif and Maryam if they did not come and faced the sentence awarded to them by the court.

An accountability court Friday announced the verdict in the Avenfield properties corruption reference filed by NAB, awarding ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif 10-year imprisonment and eight million pounds for owning assets beyond known sources of income and one year for not cooperating with the bureau, seven-year jail to his daughter Maryam and fine of two million pounds for abetment after she was found guilty of assisting in concealing the assets and properties owned by her father and one-year jail to her spouse Capt Safdar.

According to the verdict, Avenfield apartments where Nawaz Sharif and his family members are staying belong to Pakistan. The lawyers opined they would remain property of Pakistan like any consulate of the country in any other country until the accountability court decision was suspended by an appellate court.

Talking to The Nation, constitutional expert and PTI leader Hamid Khan appreciated the Avenfield decision, terming it “the beginning of accountability”. He said every corrupt while holding any public office must be brought to accountability. “It’s a great decision as the three-time prime minister and two-time chief minister has been convicted over the charges of corruption,” said Hamid Khan. He affirmed Nawaz Sharif and other convicts had the right to appeal before the high court, but they would have to surrender to the court of law. “The appeal could be filed from anywhere, but they have to surrender to the court of law,” he said. “The lawyers can file an appeal on their behalf, but suspension of their sentence is legally not possible if they do not surrender before the law,” he said.

Former law minister and senior lawyer, Dr Khalid Ranjha, viewed Sharifs had spoiled their case as they abused the courts and judges. “The Avenfield decision of the NAB court is based on evidence. They can challenge the decision before an appellate court and if they prove the decision of the accountability court is not based on evidence, it will automatically be set aside,” Khalid Ranjha gave his expert opinion. “Sharifs have themselves spoiled their case. How can they file an appeal when they abuse the same courts and judges?” he questioned.

Another senior lawyer, AK Dogar, argued the accountability courts, including the one which had convicted Sharif and his daughter, had ceased to exist as the accountability law had lapsed after the 18th Amendment.

“I have already moved a petition before the high court against the NAB law and the courts functioning under it,” said Dogar, contending the accountability courts were no more as the relevant law had lapsed. Musharraf established these courts just to arrest politicians, he stated. He went on to say: “Musharraf took over in October 1999 while the NAB law was introduced in November 1999.” Dogar was also of the view that Nawaz Sharif and the other convicts would have to appear before the law to get possible relief and seek suspension of their sentence.

Advocate Khurram Chughtai maintained Sharif and the other convicts had the right to appeal through a duly authorised power of attorney for relief under criminal jurisdiction. He argued the court could suspend the conviction in an appeal under Section 426 of CrPC, but there was likelihood that the prosecution would take the plea that the appellants were not in Pakistan, so the basic principles of bail in result of suspension of the sentence should not be applicable. The court could also consider an important question that the convicts were sentenced with forfeiture of the asset outside jurisdiction of Pakistan and the conviction of fine would also have relevance.

“Till suspension of the conviction, the forfeited property vests in the federal government. The court may pass an order of partial suspension to the extent of imprisonment only,” said Chughtai.