ISLAMABAD - The defence counsels Wednesday concluded their arguments before a division bench of the Islamabad High Court conducting hearing in petitions of Sharif family seeking suspension of their sentences in Avenfield reference.

The dual bench of IHC comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb conducted hearing of the appeals of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Captain (retd) Safdar seeking suspension of their sentence while their counsel Khawaja Haris and Amjad Pervez presented their arguments in support of their plea seeking suspension of sentence of their clients.

NAB Prosecutor Akram Qureshi will start his arguments today (Thursday) when the court would resume hearing in this matter.

During the hearing, Khawaja Haris informed the court that he had not seen the statement of head of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) and prosecution star witness Wajid Zia regarding the ownership of Avenfield properties.

At this, Justice Miangul asked that what would be its consequences if the ownership had not been mentioned. Haris said that if a known-source is not known then contradictions cannot be identified.

Justice Athar also asked that is it Nawaz’s stance that his father, Mian Sharif, distributed the property. The counsel replied that Nawaz Sharif said that he has nothing to do with the properties.

The court questioned that has anyone who is under guardianship been sentenced. Justice Minallah added that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had adopted that Nawaz’s children were under his guardianship. Haris said that the children were not under Nawaz’s guardianship and there is no evidence of it on record.

Then, Justice Athar asked that under whose guardianship the children were in 1993. The counsel said that at that time, heir grandfather was alive. In response to it, the judge asked that whether the business was joint family venture during Mian Sharif’s lifetime. Haris said that everyone was a shareholder.

The counsel contended that the sentence and the indictment charges are contradictory in this matter. He said that the trial court judgment stated that usually children are under the guardianship of their father and owing to that Nawaz is the owner.

Justice Minallah remarked that children can also be under the guardianship of their grandfather. He asked that whether NAB provided any evidence to show that they were under Nawaz’s guardianship. He continued that even Wajid Zia has said that there is no evidence or document to prove this. He added that the NAB would have to tell that under whose guardianship the children were.

Then, Justice Minallah questioned from Maryam’s counsel, Amjad Pervez that the sentence given to his client was not based on the issue of guardianship but being an unnamed owner. He added that the trial court declared Maryam as beneficial owner and sentenced her for hiding her father’s property.

Pervez answered that the indictment was not in line with NAB Ordinance Schedule 3A and 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.

He added that NAB witness Robert Radley was not an expert in identifying fonts and Maryam’s role would only be proven after it is proven that Nawaz is the owner of the property.

Justice Athar remarked that they have to keep in mind the trial court judgment which states it is based on assumptions and a criminal sentence cannot be maintained on assumptions.

At this point, NAB prosecutor Akram Qureshi said that only one-sided arguments have been heard so far and they will satisfy the court on all matters in this connection.

Later, the court adjourned hearing till Wednesday for further proceedings.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, and Capt (Retd) Muhammad Safdar had also filed the appeals in the IHC challenging the Accountability Court (AC)’s verdict in the Avenfield property reference and made the state through Chairman, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as respondent.  They were of the view that the impugned judgment, conviction and sentence are based on no evidence.