Court suspends Sharif’s sentence

Islamabad High Court says NAB could not bring evidence against the Sharifs in corruption case
Members of Nawaz Sharif’s party celebrated his release on Wednesday after the Islamabad High Court suspended the jail sentences handed to the former Prime Minister, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Captain Muhammad Safdar (retd.). National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutors have been criticised for presenting a weak case in the High Court. As reported in Dawn newspaper, Justice Athar Minallah remarked that “the NAB, after conducting thorough investigation, couldn’t bring any evidence of Nawaz Sharif’s ownership of the Avenfield apartments (in London), but you want us to admit his ownership on mere presumption”.
The High Court order comes a week after Mr. Sharif’s wife Kulsoom passed away. Mr. Sharif, Ms. Maryam and Captain Safdar were granted parole for five days to attend her funeral. They were sent back to Adiala Jail on Monday. Supreme Court lawyer Faisal Chaudhry said the court has only suspended the sentence, not acquitted Mr. Sharif and family. “It is good to see that the courts are working freely and this essentially negates the PML-N’s own narrative, challenging the credibility of the courts,” said Mr. Chaudhry.
It is too early to comment on the merits of the decision since the reasoning [full verdict] is not before us for an analysis, but it has certainly embarrassed the NAB authorities since they apparently mishandled the prosecution, he added. Senior anchorperson Muneeb Farooq, who is also a lawyer by profession, was of the opinion that while this is indeed an interim relief, the fact remains that “the NAB miserably failed to defend its own chargesheet against the accused”. Senior journalist Murtaza Solangi said this is a temporary relief for Mr. Sharif and a huge boost for Ms. Maryam. “It will help Maryam’s ascendancy in the PML-N hierarchy. It will relieve pressure on Shahbaz Sharif (Mr. Sharif’s brother) who can now focus more on parliamentary matters…” said Mr. Solangi.
High Court lawyer Waqqas Mir said Pakistan’s Code of Criminal Procedure allows an appellate court to suspend a lower court judgment while appeal is pending. PML-N Senator Musadik Malik said the most important element in this case is that the Avenfield decision itself stated that there was no corruption. “Political hoopla was all about corruption and money laundering but the court decision negated that.”If there was indeed corruption, the NAB should have appealed against this verdict, but it didn’t. It validates that the NAB and prosecution recognise or accept that there was indeed no corruption or money laundering, he added. When the Islamabad High Court bench asked the NAB if it has ascertained the value of Mr. Sharifs’ assets, the anti-corruption body said it had not done so. If the NAB has not ascertained the value of assets or means, how can the Sharifs be convicted of living beyond means, Mr. Malik asked.
“Facts did not support for the Sharifs to be behind bars — there was no evidence of corruption, money laundering or living beyond means. Justice has prevailed. The entire political rhetoric regarding corruption and other charges has been destroyed.”
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