ISLAMABAD - A two-member bench of the Islamabad High Court will take up the appeals moved by the Sharif family members against their conviction in Avenfield reference today (Tuesday).

The bench comprising Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb will conduct hearing of the appeals filed by Sharifs’ lawyers Khawaja Haris Ahmed and Amjad Pervaiz.

Challenging the Accountability Court (AC)’s verdict, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Capt (r) Muhammad Safdar have made the state through National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman as respondent in their pleas.

Apart from the appeals against the convictions, the defence lawyers have also sought suspension of the Accountability Court’s order and bails for their clients.

Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer also filed an application in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for transfer of the remaining references against his client from Judge Muhammad Bashir’s court to any other court.

The two-judge bench will take up all these appeals today.

In the appeals against convictions, the legal teams of Sharif family prayed to the court to nullify the judgment of the accountability court regarding their imprisonment sentence, disqualification and property confiscation.

The appeals began by stating the punishments and the laws under which those were given to the Sharif family members.

The appellants contended that from a comparison of the allegations made in the initially filed interim reference dated 8-9-2017 and the allegations made and formulated in the supplementary reference dated 12-1-2018, it is abundantly clear that the same are radically 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.

The appeal filed on behalf of Nawaz Sharif maintained 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 honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan, the onus is on the prosecution to prove, in the first instance, the 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 may have acquired the assets in questions.

“It is submitted that the prosecution miserably failed to discharge its onus as regard [to the] proof of the ingredients of the offence,” the appeal maintained.

It continued that as a matter of fact there is not an iota of evidence produced by the prosecution that any of the children of the appellant were dependent on the appellant at any time since they came to be in possession of Avenfield Properties but this aspect of the record is also not taken note of by the learned trial court.

“It stands established on the record that the prosecution has miserably failed to lead any evidence whatsoever showing that the appellant was the actual owner of Avenfield properties and /or that his children were holding the property as his benamidars,” the appeal said.

 

Maryam in her appeal argued that the prosecution 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.

She added that the AC judge convicted them under section 9(a)(v) of the NAO, 1999. The conviction is based on the testimony of JIT head Wajid Zia who did not have any personal knowledge regarding the facts deposed by him.

The appellant adopted that the only evidence regarding beneficial ownership of the London apartments was letter of financial investigation agency of British Virgin Island (FIA-BVI) 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, the appeal added. She termed the allegations regarding trust deed being concocted by the JIT with the mala fide intention to implicate the whole family. She maintained that uncorroborated evidence is the weakest kind of evidence and is liable to be received with great caution.

Therefore, it was prayed that this court may be pleased to set aside the impugned judgment, conviction and sentence dated awarded to the appellants by the accountability court Islamabad and they may be acquitted of all the charges framed against them in the reference.

The appeals, at their start, stated that Nawaz Sharif was convicted under Section 9 (a)(v) of NAO, 1999, and Serial No2 of the Schedule to the NAO, 1999, and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a term of ten years, and to fine of 8 million pounds under Section 10 of the NAO, 1999 for the offence under Section 9 (a)(v) of the NAO, and to one year imprisonment for the offence at Serial No2 of the schedule of the NAO, 1999, with stipulation that both the sentences shall run concurrently.

The appeals added that Maryam Safdar was convicted under Section 9 (a)(v) and (xii) of the NAO, 1999 and for the offence at Serial No2 of the Schedule to the NAO, 1999, and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for seven years with fine of 2 million pounds under Section 10 of the NAO, 1999 for the offence under Section 9 (a)(v) and (xii) ibid, and to one year simple imprisonment for offence at Serial No2 of the schedule to the NAO, 1999, with stipulation that both sentences shall run concurrently.

Similarly, Capt (r) Muhammad Safdar was convicted for offences under Section 9 (a)(v) (xii) read with Section 10 of the NAO, 1999, and for the offence at Serial No2 of the Schedule of NAO, 1999, and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for one year under Section p (a)(v)(xii) read with Section10 of the NAO, 1999, and to one year under Serial No2 of the schedule attached with NAO, 1999.

The appeals of Sharif family continued that, as per NAB court verdict, all three accused shall be disqualified to contest election or to hold public office for a period of 10 years to be reckoned from the date they are released after serving the sentence and they shall not be allowed to apply for or to be granted or allowed any financial facilities in the form of loan etc. for a period of 10 years from the date of their conviction within the meaning of Section 15 of NAO, 1999.