Avenfield wiped off Maryam’s slate

ISLAMABAD: In a massive legal victory for the PML-N, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday acquitted party leaders Maryam Nawaz and her spouse retired Capt Safdar of the charges levelled in the Aven­field apartments reference, setting aside an accountability court’s July 2018 verdict.

The acquittal now paves the way for Ms Sharif to contest any upcoming election.

On July 6, 2018, Maryam was convicted in the Avenfield properties reference and handed a seven-year prison term for abetment in the alleged “concealment of the properties of her father”. She was subsequently disqualified from contesting elections for a decade.

In the same reference, former premier Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in jail for owning assets beyond his known means of income and another year for not cooperating with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), while his son-in-law Safdar was sentenced to a year in prison for not cooperating with NAB, aiding and abetting both Nawaz and Maryam.

On Thursday, an IHC division bench consisting of Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani issued short orders on the couple’s appeals, acquitting them both of charges in the reference. “For the reasons to be recorded later, the instant appeal is allowed and the judgement dated July 6, 2018 is set aside to the extent of appellant, namely Maryam Nawaz.”

After the judgement, the PML-N vice president spoke to the media outside the court. She had just started speaking when she received calls from her father Nawaz and uncle Shehbaz Sharif, both of whom felicitated her on the victory.

Ms Nawaz accused former premier Imran Khan of leaking the audio clips of conversations in the Prime Minister Office. Commenting on the clip wherein she purportedly asked PM Shehbaz to discontinue PTI’s Sehat Card initiative, she insisted the health project was launched by the PML-N supreme leader.

“I worked hard on the health programme and it was launched by Nawaz Sharif. I asked the PM to own the programme launched by his party and never asked him to discontinue it,” she claimed.

Responding to a question about another leaked audio clip, she said the power plant machinery for her son-in-law’s business was imported during the PTI government and that Mr Khan should be ashamed of it. She said she was proud that PM Shehbaz could be heard in the recording, refusing to import the machinery from India due to a ban on imports from the country.

When asked whether she believed the “establishment” was responsible for her conviction in the Avenfield case, Maryam instantly questioned: “Who was the beneficiary? Imran knew he would not be able to come to power if Nawaz remained in the battleground.” The PTI chief and his “coaches” would be “finished” in the near future, she remarked.

She further alleged Imran Khan had been imposed on the country under a conspiracy hatched to oust her father, adding that Mr Khan had hatched another conspiracy to sabotage the deal with the International Monetary Fund, divide the armed forces and had even tried to make the election commission controversial.

The PML-N leader demanded constitution of a high-powered committee to probe into the alleged conspiracies hatched by Mr Khan, and also called for his arrest at the earliest.

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