ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court, on Tuesday, extended the protective bail for PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia cases, where he had been previously convicted. The extension was granted until October 26, after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) expressed no objections to his plea. An IHC division bench, headed by Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, issued the order pertaining to Nawaz’s petitions for protective bail in these cases and the restoration of his appeals against the convictions.
In July 2018, Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the Avenfield properties corruption reference for the ownership of assets exceeding his known income, and an additional one-year sentence for non-cooperation with the NAB, to be served concurrently.
The Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference resulted in a seven-year prison sentence on December 24, 2018. He was also fined Rs1.5 billion and US$25 million in this case. Subsequently, he was transferred from Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail to Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail the next day. Nawaz was released from jail in March 2019 and left for London in November 2019 after receiving permission from the Lahore High Court. In December 2020, the Islamabad High Court declared him a proclaimed offender in both cases.
Last week, the Islamabad High Court had extended Nawaz’s protective bail until October 24, allowing his return home on October 21.
During the latest court proceedings, Nawaz appeared alongside his brother Shehbaz Sharif and several other party leaders. At the beginning of the hearing, PML-N’s Azam Nazir Tarar mentioned that the accountability court had suspended Nawaz’s warrants in the Toshakhana case and approved his bail against surety bonds.
Justice Farooq noted that two petitions were before the high court, both related to the restoration of appeals against Nawaz’s conviction, and notices needed to be issued. Justice Aurangzeb questioned why Nawaz had been absent from court for these appeals.
Tarar stated that they intended to follow the law, to which Justice Farooq insisted on an explanation for Nawaz’s absences, setting aside Article 10-A (right to a fair trial) of the Constitution. He also emphasized the need for Nawaz to prove that these absences were not intentional and lacked ill intention.
Tarar pointed out that the Lahore High Court had granted Nawaz permission to leave the country for medical reasons, but Justice Farooq questioned whether one high court could allow such matters when another had pending cases. Justice Aurangzeb also inquired about the appropriate procedure for filing petitions to restore appeals, characterizing this as a matter of significance.
The court decided to issue notices to the opposing side, and when Tarar requested an extension of Nawaz’s protective bail for further arguments, Justice Farooq sought the opinion of the NAB’s prosecutor general. The NAB official confirmed no objections to the restoration of the appeal and the extension of protective bail.
Justice Aurangzeb expressed surprise at the NAB’s stance and questioned whether they wanted to maintain charges of corrupt practices while releasing the convict. He suggested asking the NAB chairman for clarification. He also instructed the NAB’s prosecutor general to communicate the bureau’s clear position at the next hearing.
The court subsequently issued notices to the NAB regarding Nawaz’s appeals for the restoration of convictions and the extension of protective bail, extending the bail until Thursday. When asked by reporters if he would participate in the upcoming polls, Nawaz smiled but did not provide a direct response.