ISLAMABAD - Besides plea Mian Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz against their conviction in Avenfield reference, a division bench of Islamabad High Court will today also resume hearing in an application of the former premier requesting the court to hear his and his family members’ suspension petitions before appeals against the sentence.

The IHC bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani had previously ruled while issuing notices to National Accountability Bureau that the court would take up on September 10 the instant application and appeals of Sharif family against their July 6 conviction in Avenfield case. Sharif through his counsel Khawaja Haris had sought fixation of the petition filed for suspension of the verdict in the Avenfield reference.

The dual bench of the IHC comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb will conduct hearing into the appeals of Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Captain (R) Safdar.

Khawaja Haris and Amjad Pervez advocates filed the appeals challenging the Accountability Court (AC)’s verdict in Avenfield property reference and requested the court to declare the verdict as null and void.

In the appeals, the appellants contended that from a comparison of the allegations made in the initially-filed interim reference dated 08.09.2017 and the allegations made in supplementary reference dated 12.01.2018, it was clear that the same were different from each other. As such, it was incumbent on the learned trial judge to have re-framed the charge after the receipt of supplementary reference, and his failure to do so too vitiates the trial, especially since, as is evident from the record of the case, the trial court has proceeded to record conviction of the accused on the basis of the allegations as contained in the supplementary reference and not on basis of the allegations to which he was put to notice as per the charge framed against him on 08.11.2017.

They contended that the judgment purports to convict the appellant for acquiring assets described as flats No.16, 16A, 17 and 17A, Park Lane, London (known as Avenfield properties) that are allegedly beyond his known sources of income, but nowhere in the judgment or, for that matter, in the evidence brought on the record by the prosecution is there any indication of the value of the Avenfield properties at the time it is alleged to have been purchased by the appellant.

According to the appeal, under the law as laid down by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the onus is on the prosecution to prove, in the first instance, essential ingredients of the offence falling under Section 9(a) (v) of the NAO, 1999, establishing that the assets in question belong to the accused, and it is only after the prosecution has discharged this onus, and proved that the accused person or any other person on his behalf is in possession of assets disproportionate to his known sources of income, that a presumption can be drawn in terms of Section 14 (c) of the NAO, 1999, thereby shifting the onus on the accused to explain the sources from which he might have acquired the assets in questions.

“The prosecution having failed to discharge its onus as regards proof of the ingredients of the offence as detailed hereinabove, the trial court erred in invoking provisions of Section 14 (c) of NAO 1999 to raise a presumption against the appellant, and as such, the judgment, conviction and sentence passed against the appellant are manifestly illegal and liable to be set aside as such,” maintained the appeal.

Maryam in her appeal argued that the prosecution had failed to furnish any oral account in support of its case whereas the entire documentary evidence produced by it was inadmissible for want of formal proof or being attestation of copies or being photocopies.

The appellant adopted that the only evidence regarding beneficial ownership of the London apartments was letter of financial investigation agency of British Virgin Island that it wrote to Mossack Fonseca and received a reply in 2012. However, the prosecution failed to adduce any evidence worth name to vouch safe the contents of the disputed letters.

Maryam said in her appeal that this letter could not be treated as incriminating evidence. She said that the trial court had felt it convenient to seek aid of presumptions for passing the judgment which could not have been invoked without fulfilment of statutory requirements of requisite proof as to necessary ingredients of the offence under section 9(a) (v).

Therefore, it was prayed that the court might set-aside the judgment, conviction and sentence awarded to the appellants by the Accountability Court, Islamabad and they might be acquitted of all the charges framed against them in the reference.