Islamabad: Pakistan’s anti-graft body Thursday decided to challenge in the Supreme Court the suspension of the jail sentences of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law in a corruption case, according to a media report.
The Islamabad High Court Wednesday suspended the jail sentences of Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar in the Avenfield corruption case and they were released from the Adiala Prison in Rawalpindi, in a blow to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
The decision to file the appeal in the apex court was made in a meeting chaired by NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, Prosecutor NAB and other senior officials of the anti-graft body, The News reported.
The accountability court in Islamabad sentenced Sharif, Maryam and Safdar, to 10 years, seven years and one year in jail, respectively, on July 6 in connection with the purchase of four luxury flats in London through corrupt practices.
On Wednesday, the Islamabad High Court also dismissed the NAB’s request to first announce a judgment on the maintainability of the pleas of Sharif and two others. The bench also imposed a fine on the NAB lawyers earlier for using delaying tactics.
The NAB was also pulled up by the Supreme Court on Monday when it rejected its petition challenging the Islamabad High Court’s decision to hear Sharifs’ petitions against the Avenfield verdict.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar termed the NAB petition as frivolous and imposed a Rs 20,000 fine on the NAB.
Soon after his release, the three-time former prime minister Sharif said, “I have not done anything wrong; my conscience is satisfied.”
Sharif, 68, told party leaders that Almighty Allah favours what is right and just. “Allah will grant justice to me,” he said.
The sentences on the trio will remain suspended till the final adjudication of the appeals filed by the petitioners, who are currently out on bail.
Reacting to the verdict, welcomed by Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party of Prime Minister Imran Khan said the ruling on the Avenfield case was on a “procedural basis” and the government fully respected the country’s courts.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that Pakistan’s courts were functioning independently and the NAB was also an independent and autonomous institution and the government had no role to play in its activities.
Chaudhry, who is also the information secretary of the ruling PTI, said the government respected the Islamabad High Court’s order like all its previous judgements.
“The people of Pakistan want that their looted wealth brought back to the country and the government is working to achieve this objective,” he asserted.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari termed the verdict a “relief to the Sharif family”.
In a statement issued from Bilawal House Karachi, the PPP chairman said that after the death of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, the Sharif family was going through “testing times”.
“The PPP and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto fought for the independence of judiciary and were an integral part of this important movement. The PPP has also suffered at the hands of judicial verdicts but not once have we disrespected the courts,” he added.
The PPP chairman said he could not comment on the legal aspects of this verdict as courts were yet to decide on the appeals.
“We believe that our courts should not seem to be seen as part of any political victimisation. Rule of law and independence of judiciary are essential for any democratic system to thrive,” he concluded.
The PML-N leaders on the other hand welcomed the court’s decision. They came out on the roads and distributed sweets and expressed gratitude on the suspension of the sentence.
“It is a victory of the truth,” PML-N lawmaker Khehal Das Kohistani said while speaking to the media outside the Karachi Press Club, adding that Sharif had set a precedent in Pakistan’s history while appearing dozens of time before NAB and other courts.