The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday declared the conviction of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia case, one of the three references linked to the Panama Papers, as void. This acquittal comes despite a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) request for a retrial.
With the reversal of convictions in both the Al-Azizia and Avenfield cases, legal experts suggest that the PML-N supreme leader may now become eligible to participate in elections and hold public office.
During the proceedings, the IHC division bench, led by Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, noted that the trial court convicted Mr. Sharif based on “evidence based on photocopies.” While the bench aimed to conclude the case on Tuesday, NAB sought to prolong the proceedings, urging the court to remand the case to the accountability court.
The NAB prosecutor argued that, given the removal of the late accountability judge Arshad Malik for misconduct, the IHC should send the matter back to the trial court for a decision on merit.
Justice Aurangzeb asked NAB to present arguments and share evidence that the bureau intended to submit to the trial court. The IHC chief justice requested the prosecution to provide the money trail, any original documents, and proof that Mr. Sharif acquired Al-Azizia and Hill Metal Establishment (HME) through corrupt practices.
The NAB lawyer referenced the Supreme Court’s decision to form a joint investigation team (JIT) and highlighted that the apex court allowed the JIT to utilize reports and documents submitted during the hearing. He recalled that the Supreme Court directed NAB to prepare and file references against the Sharif family based on the documents placed on the court record.
Mr. Sharif’s counsel, Amjad Pervaiz, argued that the accountability court relied on documents for evidence submitted by Hussain Nawaz, violating the dictum laid down by the superior courts. He contended that if the court relies on evidence submitted by an accused, it must be read in totality and not piecemeal.
The counsel opposed remanding the case back to the accountability court, citing Nawaz Sharif’s application against the late judge Arshad Malik and emphasizing that the judge had passed away, making cross-examination impossible.
After concluding arguments, the bench initially reserved judgment and later announced its verdict, leading to celebrations among PML-N workers and supporters gathered outside the court.