In a surprising turn of events, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been acquitted in the Al-Azizia reference, marking a significant milestone in his legal battles. The accountability court of Islamabad had sentenced Sharif to seven years’ imprisonment on December 24, 2018, but the recent decision by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has breathed new life into the seasoned politician’s ambitions.
The IHC division bench, led by Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, rejected the notion of re-trial in the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) court, providing a major boost to Nawaz Sharif’s aspirations to once again lead the country as its prime minister.
During the proceedings, the National Accountability Bureau prosecutor presented arguments in the court, attempting to sustain the previous conviction. However, Amjad Pervaiz, the counsel for Nawaz Sharif, skillfully dismantled the prosecution’s case, asserting that they had failed to establish Mr. Sharif’s ownership of Al-Azizia Steel Mills and its successor, Hill Metal Establishment (HME).
Pervaiz pointed out that despite the prosecution presenting 22 witnesses, only two of them, namely the head of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) Wajid Zia and NAB’s investigation officer Mehboob Alam, were crucial to the case. He highlighted the admissions made during their testimonies and cross-examinations, emphasizing the lack of direct evidence regarding Nawaz Sharif’s ownership, the pricing of the steel mills, determination of his income, and a comparison of his known sources of income with the companies’ prices.
The defense lawyer underscored a pivotal timeline, stating, “Mr. Sharif was not holding a public office when Al-Azizia Steel Mills was established in 2001 and HME in 2006 as he was in exile following the October 1999 military coup.” Pervaiz further clarified that it was Nawaz Sharif’s son, Hussain Nawaz, who, along with his grandfather Mian Mohammad Sharif, had been instrumental in establishing the Al-Azizia mills.
The outcome of this legal battle is seen as a significant development in Nawaz Sharif’s political career, potentially paving the way for his return to the country’s highest office. As the legal dust settles, the political landscape in Pakistan is likely to witness a renewed vigor from Sharif’s supporters and a reassessment of the country’s political dynamics.
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