IHC orders acquittal of Maryam, Captain Safdar in Avenfield case

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday acquitted Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice-President Maryam Nawaz and her husband Captain (retd) Safdar in the Avenfield reference case.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani heard the appeals against the conviction of Maryam and Captain (retd) Safdar in the Avenfield case.

The court had accepted the appeals of PML-N vice president and her husband after four years as Maryam and Capt (retd) Safdar’s counsel had raised questions over the conviction of their clients in Avenfield Apartments corruption reference, saying the case lacked evidence from the very beginning.

The two had been convicted in July 2018, whereby Maryam had been sentenced to seven years in prison and her husband was sentenced to one year in prison, however, they were both on bail since September 2018.

It may be noted that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in September had admitted before the IHC that the PML-N leader had no direct role in purchasing the Avenfield properties in London.

During the proceedings today, NAB Prosecutor Usman Rashid Cheema, who had argued the case in a previous hearing, did not appear in court citing ill health. Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi represented the accountability watchdog in his place at the court instead.

“I will not go into the background of the case, I will start from where the arguments ended,” said Abbasi as the proceedings were initiated.

The court had asked several questions of the NAB prosecution, against which Abbasi presented his arguments but nonetheless failed to satisfy the court.

“Maryam Nawaz and Nawaz Sharif’s connection to the assets beyond means has not been proven,” remarked the court.

“How do Wajid Zia’s statement and the material presented prove the prosecution’s case?” the IHC inquired. It may be noted here that Zia was the investigating officer (IO) who headed the joint investigation team (JIT) that probed the Panamagate, leading to the disqualification of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

“Wajid Zia had seen all these records himself,” responded Abbasi but the court appeared dissatisfied with the answer.

“What is Maryam Nawaz’s link with Nawaz Sharif in the assets case?” inquired Justice Amir Farooq. “You have not provided a single link yet,” the judge observed.

“I will show it from the documents as well,” the NAB prosecutor responded.

“Then why to waste time,” the judge remarked, “come to the point”. However, the prosecution failed to answer the court’s concerns.

“The IO’s observations cannot be presented as proof,” Justice Kiyani remarked. “The JIT provided no proof,” he further observed.

Later the court announced its verdict ordering the acquittal of Maryam Nawaz and Captain Safdar and declared the seven-year imprisonment sentence illegal.

PML-N celebrates verdict

As soon as the verdict was announced Maryam through a telephonic conversation congratulated her father and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif.

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