ISLAMABAD  -   Islamabad High Court (IHC) has fixed June 19 for hearing the appeals of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif appeal against the Al-Azizia Steel Mills verdict and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the same against his (Nawaz) acquittal.

A dual bench of the IHC comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani will conduct hearing of former prime minister’s petitions including his appeal against his conviction and the sentence awarded to him by the Accountability Court (AC) Islamabad on December 24, 2018 in the said reference.

An accountability court in Islamabad convicted him in Al-Azizia/Hill Metals Establishment corruption references filed by NAB. The same bench will also hear two appeals filed by the NAB against the acquittal of Nawaz Sharif in the Flagship Investment reference and for enhancement of his sentence from seven years to 14 years in the Al-Azizia reference.

Sharif had moved the appeal through his counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmad. The petitioner stated in the application that he was convicted under section 10 of NAO, 1999 read with schedule thereto and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a term of seven years along with a fine of Rs 1.5 billion and US 25 million dollar.

Sharif contended that from a bare perusal of the said judgment, it is evident that the findings recorded therein and forming basis for the conviction of the petitioner under section 9(a)(v) of NAO, 1999 read with section 10 are based on no evidence. He argued that he was convicted and sentenced on the basis of inadmissible evidence, unproven documents and statements of proxy witnesses which were not permissible in the eye of law.

The petitioner maintained that it is apparent on the face of the record that prima facie, the conviction and sentence recorded against the petitioner is illegal and unwarranted by law. Consequently his incarceration in jail pursuant to his impugned conviction is tantamount to his being held in custody without lawful authority.

While referring the legal lacunas in the judgment of AC, Sharif requested the court in his appeal to acquit him of all the charges framed against him in NAB reference No 19 of 2017.

In his petition, Nawaz maintained that the decision was based on assumptions and false interpretation of law while the evidences were misperceived and the accountability court announced the verdict without hearing objections by the accused.

Sharif’s counsel stated in the appeal, “ the findings given the learned trial court judge in the instant case are not only against the evidence brought on the record of the case but also in derogation of the law laid down by the august Supreme Court of Pakistan.”

Therefore, he maintained that the said judgment, conviction and sentence are even otherwise illegal, without jurisdiction, unwarranted by law, based on inadmissible evidence and unproven documents and on misconception and misinterpretation of law and liable to be set aside as such.

Similarly, the anti-graft body had filed the appeal through its additional deputy prosecutor general Sardar Muzaffar Ahmed Khan under section 32 of the NAB Ordinance, 1999 along with all the enabling and applicable provisions of law for setting the judgment passed by the learned Accountability Court –II Islamabad against Nawaz Sharif in the judgment dated December 24, 2018.

In its appeal, NAB prayed to the court to declare accountability court’s Flagship reference verdict as null and void. “The institution provided concrete evidence against Nawaz Sharif,” NAB stated, adding that it is illegal to acquit former PM on the mere basis of the benefit of the doubt.

Therefore, it was prayed to the court that the impugned judgment passed by AC-II Islamabad may be set aside and Nawaz Sharif may be convicted and sentenced in accordance with law.