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Nawaz, Maryam, Capt Safdar released after suspension of Avenfield sentence by IHC

ISLAMABAD: Hours after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended the sentences against them, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired captain Mohammad Safdar were released on bail from Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail Wednesday evening.

Earlier in the day, a division bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb also allowed petitions filed by the Sharif family members against the accountability court’s July 6 verdict in Avenfield reference case which found them guilty of corruption and sentenced them to imprisonment and fines.

Soon after the three leaders walked free, PML-N workers took to the streets dancing, distributing sweets and raising slogans in favour of the verdict.
A large number of party workers also gathered outside the Rawalpindi jail when Nawaz along with Maryam and Safdar were taken to the Islamabad airport amid tight security.

“The instant writ petition is allowed and sentence awarded to the petitioners by the accountability court shall remain suspended till the final adjudication of the appeal filed by the petitioner,” reads the judgment. “The petitioner shall be released on bail subject to furnishing bail bonds in the sum of Rs500,000 with one surety in the amount to the satisfaction of deputy registrar of the high court.”

The order allowed the release of Nawaz, Maryam and Captain Safdar after submission of Rs0.5 million bond each. They had been in prison since July 13.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal said that NAB will appeal in the apex court against the IHC’s verdict.

The hearing was attended by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif along with Mushahiddullah Khan, Raja Zafarul Haq, Khawaja Asif, Ahsan Iqbal and others.

Shortly after the verdict was announced, Nawaz’s younger brother tweeted a Quranic verse to express gratitude on suspension of the sentences. While Asif termed the IHC judgment a “victory for justice”.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Attorney General of Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan said the verdict was “expected and nothing out of the ordinary”.

In the July 6 decision, Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir had sentenced Nawaz to 10 years rigorous imprisonment (RI), Maryam to 7 years RI and Safdar to one-year (RI). The accused were also disqualified to contest elections or to hold public office for a period of 10 years after release.

Following the accountability court’s judgment in the Avenfield reference, the Sharifs’ filed separate petitions through counsel Khawaja Haris and Amjad Pervaiz requesting the high court to suspend sentences and set aside the verdict.

The petitions moved the onus of proof from the accused to the prosecution. In the course of court proceedings, the IHC mulled whether the conviction can be based on presumption as NAB continued to raise objections over the maintainability of the petitions.

The anti-graft watchdog also moved the Supreme Court to block the Avenfield verdict suspension pleas before the IHC. However, the top court penalised NAB for filing a “frivolous” petition and fined the anti-graft watchdog Rs20,000.

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