Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif
According to his daughter, Nawaz Shariff is eager to return to Pakistan after completing his medical treatment. Image Credit: Reuters/file

Islamabad: A Pakistani court today asked the three-time former premier Nawaz Sharif to “surrender” and “appear before the court” at the next hearing on September 10.

Islamabad High Court (IHC) two-member special bench comprising Justice Amir Farooq and Justice Mohsin Kayani heard the petitions against the sentences of Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Safdar Awan in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia Steel Mills cases.

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“Not declaring absconder yet”

Justice Farooq said that the court was not yet declaring Nawaz an absconder. “We are not passing the final verdict as of yet,” the court said. “We are giving Nawaz last chance to surrender before the next hearing.” Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer, Khawaja Harris, argued that Nawaz could not return to the country due to his medical condition and the pandemic, adding that new medical reports would be submitted soon.

Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) supremo earlier assured the court that he would return to Pakistan as soon as his health improves. On August 31, Nawaz filed an application in the IHC seeking exemption from court appearance during his appeal against the conviction in the Avenfield case. He also requested the court to adjourn the hearing of the other case or carry out the proceedings in the presence of his representative.

NAB opposes court exemption

The bench also heard an appeal filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against Nawaz’s release and appeals against conviction. NAB opposed Nawaz Sharif’s request for exemption from appearance, adding that he is a fugitive who failed to turn up at the court proceedings. The court also observed that absconding from a court hearing or during a trial was also a crime. Nawaz Sharif was last year allowed to leave for London for medical reasons on bail that expired in December last year.

Anxious to return

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and her husband, retired captain Mohammad Safdar, also appeared before the court on Tuesday amid tight security and greeted by hundreds of party workers. PML-N leaders including Pervaiz Rashid and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also accompanied Maryam to the high court.

Speaking to the media, she said that the former premier was anxious to return to Pakistan but he is undergoing treatment in London, which was delayed due to coronavirus emergency. “No one would want to stay away from the country at this age” but added that she wanted her father to only return after completing the medical treatment of immune system disorder.

Following the 2017 disqualification of former premier Nawaz Sharif over corruption allegations spurred by the Panama Papers offshore leaks, the Supreme Court had directed NAB to file three references - Avenfield Properties, Al Azizia, and Flagship Investment - against the Sharif family regarding their properties and businesses. In 2018, the Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from holding public office. Following the conviction, the Sharif family members were imprisoned. However, all three - Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar - were released from Adiala jail in September 2018 after the IHC had suspended their separate prison sentences in the Avenfield corruption reference.