Local News Islamabad, ISLAMABAD , PAKISTAN

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The reinstatement of Nawaz Sharif's right to appeal convictions paves the way for his reelection



Pakistan's former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, took a significant step in his ongoing legal battle as the Islamabad High Court (IHC) announced the restoration of his appeals against convictions in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia graft cases. The IHC had earlier disposed of these appeals in June 2021 due to Sharif's absence from court hearings during his stay in London.
Nawaz Sharif, a three-time ousted prime minister, appeared in person before an IHC division bench led by Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb. These appeals were pivotal in challenging the sentences imposed on him in the two corruption cases.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan's anti-corruption body, informed the bench that it had no objections to the revival of Nawaz's pleas. However, when questioned if NAB would defend the judgments against Nawaz when the appeals are reinstated, the agency responded that it would review the case and the evidence before presenting its arguments.
The IHC had previously granted protective bail to Nawaz Sharif on October 19, allowing him to safely return to Pakistan and appear before the court on October 24. On that day, NAB stated that it had no objections to Nawaz's pleas, leading to an extension of his bail in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia cases until October 26.
Moreover, on the same day, the Punjab government approved the suspension of Nawaz's sentence in the Al-Azizia reference.
In the Avenfield properties corruption reference, Nawaz Sharif had been sentenced to 10 years in prison in July 2018 for owning assets beyond his known income, with an additional year for not cooperating with the anti-graft watchdog. These sentences were to be served concurrently.

In the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference, Nawaz had received a seven-year prison sentence on December 24, 2018, after which he was taken to Rawalpindi's Adiala Jail and later moved to Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail.
Notably, during his seven-year prison sentence, Nawaz Sharif left for London in 2019 for health reasons while living in self-imposed exile. He returned to Pakistan on October 21, setting the stage for the revival of his legal battle.
During the recent court proceedings, the NAB prosecutor general argued that the reference could only be withdrawn if a verdict had not been pronounced. He pointed out that the Avenfield reference had been filed in line with the Supreme Court's decision, which established not only the case's filing but also the formation of a joint investigation team (JIT). The JIT had recommended two references, Avenfield and Al-Azizia, which were currently in the appeal stage and thus could not be withdrawn at this juncture.
Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb inquired whether the prosecutor general would argue in favor of the decisions, while Advocate Amjad Pervaiz highlighted that the court's verdict had indicated that the appeals could not be decided without discussing Nawaz Sharif's role and the NAB's failure to establish a connection between Sharif and the Avenfield apartments.
The IHC reserved its verdict on Nawaz Sharif's petitions, signaling the potential revival of his appeals against the convictions. As this legal battle continues, the former prime minister's return to the center of Pakistani politics remains a subject of significant public interest and debate

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