Hudaibiya Verdict

Going against Nawaz Sharif’s refrain of undue bias, the Supreme Court has decided in favour of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the ex-Prime Minister as the court has turned down the appeal of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to re-open Hudaibiya Paper Mills Case against Nawaz Sharif and others. Nawaz and his party can celebrate it as a victory after the tumultuous days it had recently lived thorugh.

The dismissal of NAB’s appeal means that the Supreme Court has rejected the NAB’s argument that Nawaz Sharif exerted his influence on the final decision of the case in Lahore High Court (LHC). The decision of the Supreme Court also indicates that it decides the cases on merit and it removes any notion of hostility towards Nawaz, his family or the ruling party.

Though the NAB application was accepted to reopen the case, the lawyer of the bureau failed to satisfy the three-member bench with his arguments to do so “for the sake of justice.” While the appeal to re-open the case was allowed because the NAB gave the impression that it had collected some irrefutable evidence after the Panama leaks that would alter the previous judgment of LHC, however, the bureau failed to bring any new facts or findings in front of the bench. Also, the remarks of Justice Isa are worth noting that the reference was filed when Pervaiz Musharaf was in power. The inference one can draw from his remarks is that the court is convinced that it was an attempt of political victimisation. Overall, the poor performance of NAB’s lawyer in front of the bench resulted in the rejection of NAB’s appeal to re-open the case against Nawaz and others.

While the chances are that NAB will go for the option of review of the judgment, it is clear that it is tough to overturn the bench’s decision. Even if the review is permitted, the court will deliberate only on legal aspects of the judgment, no new evidence can be submitted at this point neither any new fact can be added.

As such the rejection of the appeal will be good news to the party. It ensures that it’s next putative leader – Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif – remains free from legal trouble going into the 2018 election. He still has a fair share of political trouble – in the shape of the twin Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) coalition and the Khatam-e-Nabuwat movement – but the exoneration from the Supreme Court is certainly one less thing to worry about.


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