It is interesting to see the difference in the increasing speed with which the accountability trial of Nawaz Sharif was held, and the slow pace of his appeal now. While the accountability case was forced to be concluded within a number of months, by not granting exemptions or extensions to Sharif’s lawyer, the appeal now is marked with delays and adjournments from the prosecutor side. The latest attempt at an adjournment by the prosecution on Thursday, for which they received a tongue lashing by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) is just one of many examples.

The court had already fixed Thursday for final arguments of the prosecution on three identical petitions by Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Capt. Safdar, seeking suspension of sentence awarded to them in the Avenfield properties case, when National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Additional Deputy prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi sought adjournment on the ground that “NAB needs time to file para-wise comments”. NAB’s seeking of an adjournment without valid grounds annoyed the IHC, which imposed a fine of Rs. 10,000 on the bureau for using delaying tactics in this case.

Seeking of adjournments to linger the case is a common tactic employed by private lawyers but is an inappropriate practice for the prosecution of the state to attempt to delay a case. NAB should be extra careful in this case so to not fan the flames, since the conviction of Nawaz Sharif already had been tainted with allegations of executive overreach and political bias.

Considering the fact that this case had been marked with irregularities since the day the Accountability court took the references, perhaps we should not be surprised that the appeal is also being given a similar treatment. The original case had been tasked to be solved within months, without granting any exemption or extension to Sharif, even with the very valid reason of a ailing wife, an action which is highly unusual considering extensions are handed out quite regularly in the courts. These delaying tactics in the appeal procedure, now by the prosecution side, are perhaps an indication that Nawaz Sharif should not keep his hopes high for fair treatment at the appellate level as well.

However, yesterday marked the dawn of Naya Pakistan, one where right to fair trial is imperative. Hopefully, the IHC’s stern warning will compel the NAB to treat Sharif’s case in an objective, accommodating manner, as doing so would be to the benefit of everyone.