IHC issues non-bailable arrest warrants for Nawaz in Al Azizia reference

Nawaz Sharif
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday issued non-bailable arrest warrants for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al Azizia reference.

The court issued the directions while hearing three miscellaneous applications filed by the PML-N supremo seeking to forgo the requirement of his surrender, pursue the appeal through a legal representative and exemption from court appearance.

Earlier today, the court had reserved its verdict in the case. A two-member bench comprising Justice Aamir Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani heard the appeal.

During today’s hearing, Nawaz’s lawyer Khawaja Haris maintained that the former premier could not appear before the court.

“Nawaz is in London and is not in any position to return. His doctor has advised him against travelling. [However] he has clearly stated in his application that he wishes to return to the country. Once he receives permission from his doctor, he will get on the first flight back,” he said, adding that the PML-N leader would return once his treatment was complete.

Justice Kayani remarked that Nawaz’s medical reports were the “opinion of a doctor” and had not been issued by a hospital. “So far, no hospital has said that it is unable to admit and treat Nawaz because of Covid-19,” the judge said.

Meanwhile, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Additional Prosecutor General Jahanzeb Bharwana stated that the court had directed Nawaz to surrender and that his appeals were inadmissible.

To this, the court remarked that Nawaz’s bail in the Al Azizia reference had expired and that it was a well-known fact that he had not appeared before the court.

The NAB prosecutor replied that under the National Accountability Ordinance, a proclaimed offender could be jailed for up to three years. “The court has the power to either dismiss the appeal or appoint a lawyer for the offender.”

He maintained that giving relief to fugitives would affect the judicial system, adding that the court had already provided the former premier the chance to surrender.

The court remarked that Nawaz had not yet been declared a proclaimed offender and asked how the appeal would be heard without “listening to the other side”.

The NAB prosecutor replied that the court could appoint a legal representative for this purpose. The same principle would then apply to the appeals filed by Nawaz, the court observed.

Earlier in the month, the IHC had directed Nawaz to surrender before the court and appear at the next hearing scheduled for September 10. Shortly after, Nawaz had filed a review petition asking the court to forgo the requirement.

At the next hearing on September 10, the court had questioned whether the appeal of a person, who has been declared a proclaimed offender in a separate case, could be heard by the court and had adjourned the hearing.

Nawaz had left for London in November 2019 after the Lahore High Court granted him permission to go abroad for medical treatment.

He had submitted an undertaking to the court, citing his record of facing the law and justice, and that he would return within four weeks or as soon as he was declared healthy and fit to travel by doctors.

He was also given bail in the Al Azizia Mills corruption case in which he was serving a seven-year prison sentence in Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore, before he left for London.

Last week, an accountability court had declared Nawaz a proclaimed offender in the Toshakhana vehicles reference and initiated the process to confiscate his properties and directed the NAB to make his arrest through Interpol.

While separating Nawaz’s case, Judge Mohammad Azam Khan of the accountability court of Islamabad also indicted former president Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani and other accused persons in the Toshakhana reference.