Counsel says no evidence exists against PML-N leader
Staff Reporter Islamabad
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz on Wednesday vowed that the Opposition will not allow Prime Minister Imran Khan to become “a political martyr.”
A two-judge bench, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, had taken up an appeal filed by Maryam against her conviction in the Avenfield properties case, in which she claimed that she had been persecuted at the behest of “certain people”.
Speaking to the media outside the Islamabad High Court, Mar yam said that the prime minister “should not even attempt to be like Nawaz Sharif” as he was “an elected prime minister who came into power through the votes of the masses” as opposed to the incumbent ruler, who the Opposition frequently refers to as a “selected leader.”
Maryam went on to say that Imran Khan’s identity is to conspire against the elected prime minister and to hold a 126-day sit-in,” she said in response to her own question. She was referring to the PTI’s 2014 sit-in in Islamabad.
The PML-N leader went on to say that one does not simply become a lion by cloaking oneself in the creature’s hide.
Maryam raised a question on Imran Khan’s identity and said that it is confined to “conspiracies,” adding that he has “nothing to do with the principles of law and democracy”.
She said that the premier will have to “answer for his conspiracies”.
Speaking further about the so-called “conspiracies”, she said that if the use of “magic” has yielded such success, then it should be put to use to alleviate the petrol, diesel, flour crises.
“If your magic is so successful then why don’t you use it for the good of the people?” she asked. “There is no rule of law in the country right now,” Maryam said.
“Imran Khan is not a constitutionally appointed leader,” she said, adding that he is in fact “guilty of violating it”. The PML-N leader said that her party’s struggle is “against individuals like Imran Khan”.
Maryam responded to the rumoured differences within the Opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement alliance. “There are no conflicts within PDM,” she insisted.
She also spoke of NAB’s request filed at the IHC seeking cancellation of her bail as well as that of her husband, Safdar Awan in the Avenfield properties reference.
“I wish to see who my sympathiser in NAB is who has applied for a revocation of bail,” she remarked, adding that their face should be exposed before the nation.
“The person should be given not a 21-gun, but a 22-gun salute,” she added. Maryam said that she fears neither getting arrested nor being implicated in a “fake case”.
The lawyer for PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz told the Islamabad High Court that the legal procedure was not followed in the Avenfield apartments reference, which he said was not based on any evidence and saw numerous mistakes being committed at the pre-trial stage.
Advocate Irfan Qadir argued on the maintainability of Maryam’s latest application, in which she had sought to present “extremely relevant, simple and clear-cut facts” to support her appeal against the conviction.
He said “numerous” mistakes had been made during the pre-trial stage of the case and that there were many irregularities in the case proceedings.
Qadir said although the National Accountability Bureau had first filed an application seeking the conclusion of the appeals within 30 days, it had now filed a request seeking cancellation of Maryam’s bail.
As Qadir criticised NAB’s policy to readily arrest suspects, Justice Farooq remarked: “These days NAB arrests anyone, whether there is any proof against them or not. Now NAB officials function like a thana (police station) too.”
Qadir informed the court that Maryam’s new application had talked about political engineering in her case, saying “certain incidents took place which gave rise to many doubts and suspicions.”
The counsel argued that the accountability court did not have the authority to hear the Avenfield case. “This is a case in which no evidence exists,” he said, adding that the legal procedure had not been followed in the case.
He noted that in a criminal case, the benefit of even the smallest doubt was given to the suspect. “In the Avenfield reference, there is not little but a lot of doubt,” he remarked.
Reading out the charges in the reference, Qadir said Maryam had been accused of being a beneficial owner of the Avenfield flats in London.
Referring to a document signed by Maryam written in Calibri font, the lawyer said: “A lot of people made fun of the Calibri font [issue]. Today I will tell you its reality as well.”
Maryam was declared the beneficial owner of the properties based on a trust deed, Qadir said, adding that a “big mistake” had been committed by the Supreme Court, accountability court, Panama Papers joint investigation team and the NAB.
According to the counsel, the Sharif family was “very wealthy” even before Nawaz Sharif entered politics. Qadir questioned how this case was turned into one about a public officeholder.
Justice Kayani sought the document showing the ownership of the Avenfield flats, to which Qadir responded that no document existed that showed Maryam and Nawaz as the apartments’ owners.
When the judges asked NAB to produce the ownership documents, NAB deputy prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi informed the court that the Avenfield properties were owned by offshore companies Nielson and Nescol.
At this, the court inquired how the two offshore companies were linked to Maryam or her father Nawaz. It was told by the NAB lawyer that Maryam had been found to be the beneficial owner of Nielson and Nescol companies.
Qadir interjected and said Maryam was not a public officeholder, but added that she had the potential to become one “in the future”. He said Maryam had been accused of abetting Nawaz Sharif’s crime.
The lawyer further said Maryam’s husband retired Capt Mohammad Safdar had been convicted in the case even though “he had no role” in the reference.
He argued that the reference had not been filed by the NAB chairman, saying as per the law, the court could not fix a reference for hearing if it had not been filed by the NAB chairperson.
Qadir further said only one reference concerning the Sharif family’s assets should have been filed, instead of three.
“This is a unique case in the country’s 70-year and NAB’s 20-year history,” he remarked, saying Maryam had received the punishment in the case “as inheritance”.
“If no case had been instituted against Nawaz Sharif, there would have been no case against Maryam either,” he said, adding: “NAB should be asked against how many families it started more than one assets cases.”
After hearing Qadir, the court directed the NAB to present its arguments at the next hearing. The case was adjourned until November 17.