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Gulf Times

Sharif should now challenge sentence in court: experts

As the law ministry has stopped Accountability Court Judge Arshad Malik from working, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is likely to move the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for suspension of his sentence in Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case.
Legal experts believe that it is most likely that Sharif, who is behind the bars after being sentenced for seven years in Al-Azizia steel mills corruption case, may soon approach the IHC with additional grounds in his pending appeal against his sentence.
Senior lawyer Shah Khawar said that as the IHC has made Malik’s affidavit part of the record of Sharif’s pending appeal in the Azizia Steel Mills case, the former premier may approach the court for suspension of his sentence with this additional ground.
Sharif may direct his counsel Khawaja Haris to file an application in his pending appeal against his sentence in Al-Azizia steel mills case, seeking suspension of the Accountability Court verdict, Shah Khawar said.
Last year Malik handed Sharif seven years in jail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference, but acquitted him in second reference related to Flagship Investments.
The court also fined Sharif Rs1.5bn and $25mn in the Al-Azizia reference.
Malik had submitted a letter to acting IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq, in which he said the videos shared by Maryam Nawaz were fake.
He also filed an affidavit before the IHC chief justice.
Barrister Ali Zafar, a former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, said that former prime minister can get relief from the court if the video of Malik proved that the he handed the prison sentence under duress and pressure.
“If the video proved and showed that the judge was under some kind of pressure or blackmail, then Nawaz Sharif’s judgment cannot be sustained, and the case will have to set back for fresh decision by new judge,” Zafar said.
He, however, said that if bias on the part of the judge is not proved, and the video is found to have been tampered with, there could be serious consequences for those who leaked the video, including the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) leadership.
He said that in the wake of the video’s release, the first step has been taken in right direction, in that the judge had been relieved of his duties for the time being.
After this, the next important step is to determine the authenticity of video and find out as to whether the judgment delivered by Malik in Nawaz Sharif’s case had been made under any kind of pressure, Zafar added.
What is most important for the sake of judicial independence and reputation, however, is that this issue must be decided expeditiously, transparently and the public be informed accordingly, Zafar stressed.
Senior lawyer Mohamed Ikram Chaudhry said that the Lahore High Court should have taken the cognisance of the matter after the PML-N leaked the video and proceeded to take action against the judge.
Meanwhile, Barrister Zafraullah Khan, a senior PML-N leader and former adviser to prime minister, declined to comment, explaining that he and Khawaja Haris had been appearing before the courts on behalf of the Sharif family.
“As we have principally decided not to talk to media, I cannot make any comment,” he said.

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