Islamabad: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Tuesday rejected former prime minister and PML-N Rahber Muhammad Nawaz Sharif’s plea for exemption from court appearance in the Al-Azizia and Avenfield cases and issued his non-bailable arrest warrant.
The court directed that Nawaz Sharif should be produced before September 22. The Chamber Trial Chamber composed of Justices Aamir Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani heard Nawaz’s appeal against his conviction in two references.
Judge Aamir Farooq asked why he filed a petition to revoke Nawaz Sharif’s bail, because the court must first decide whether his plea is acceptable. He pointed out that the court will first hear Nawaz Sharif’s request for immunity.
In this regard, Nawaz lawyer Hawaja Harris referred to the case against former President Pervez Musharraf regarding the investigation of his property, and said that his lawyer had been allowed to appear in court. He said that in the case of treason, the special court declared General Musharraf as an absconder, but the Supreme Court heard a letter from his lawyer.
He argued that under special circumstances, the defendant’s lawyer may be allowed to appear in court instead of the defendant. Harris further argued that the trial could not be stopped because the defendant did not attend.
“The court can appoint a public prosecutor for the accused and proceed with the trial. As of now, Nawaz Sharif cannot appear before the court,” he said.
He referred to the Supreme Court’s Hayat Bakhsh case of 1981 in which a procedure had been formulated for the declared absconder. The bench asked the counsel to describe the unusual circumstances that he thought applied to his case. Haris replied that the apex court heard the plea of the fugitive accused for various reasons.
“Nawaz Sharif’s case is similar, as he spent time in jail after his conviction and filed an appeal,” he said, adding that now the court had to decide whether Nawaz Sharif was an absconder. Justice Kayani remarked that in the case referred to by Haris, the accused had escaped from jail. Haris prayed that it was a more serious crime in which the appeal of the accused was decided on merit.
The bench asked Haris ifhe wanted the court to defer the hearing of appeals, or they should be heard in the absence of Nawaz Sharif. To this, Harris replied that he wanted to defer the hearings. “You are saying that even if Nawaz Sharif is declared a fugitive, the court should decide his appeals on merit?” the court asked.
Harris replied that he also requested that no action be taken if the client absconds. The judge on the bench pointed out that Harris was very aware that Nawaz Sharif’s reference to Al-Azizia’s bail was invalid and he did not surrender in court.
The National Attorney General, Nahan Jaharzeb Khan Bharwana, argued that Nawaz Sharif’s petition was inadmissible. “Let us assume that Nawaz Sharif’s request occurred before he was declared absconded. On this basis, even further, his application will be rejected because the basic rule is that the defendant must surrender. According to the National Bank Act, fugitives can be sentenced to three years in prison.
“It is the responsibility of Nawaz’s representative to ensure his presence in the court,” he argued. He added that Nawaz Sharif was deliberately disobeying court orders, and that the court had the power to reject the fugitive’s appeal or to appoint a lawyer for him.
“The court gave Nawaz Sharif two chances to surrender but he did not,” he said. “Giving relief to fugitives will affect the justice system,” the prosecutor argued. Khawaja Haris told the court that Nawaz Sharif was in London and doctors were not allowing him to travel because of his medical condition.
Nawaz said in the petition that the moment his doctor allowed him to get out of the car, he would return on the next flight. His confession is also accompanied by a medical certificate. Haris argued that the federal government and the National Bank (NAB) did not question Nawaz Sharif’s medical certificate.
In response, Justice Aamir Farooq said that the medical certificate is the opinion of the consultant, not the opinion of the consultant from any hospital. “No hospital has stated that they rejected Nawaz Sharif because of COVID 19. If he must live outside the hospital, why not in Pakistan?”
Judge Mohsin Akhtar Kayani stated that Nawaz had neither undergone surgery, although he had used it as a reason for bail to travel to the UK, nor was he admitted to hospital. The judge said: “Our bail order has expired. This has implications.”
The non-bail arrest warrant is issued to ensure that the PML-N leaders will appear at the upcoming hearing on September 22. After hearing these arguments, the court rejected Nawaz Sharif’s request for immunity in both petitions. His non-bailable arrest warrant was issued on the bench, and the production was ordered in court on September 22.