The Islamabad High Court on Friday constituted a new bench to hear petitions challenging the Sharif family's conviction in the Avenfield properties reference.
Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Mian Gull will start hearing the petitions on September 10 (tomorrow).
Accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir had on July 6 convicted Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar in the Avenfield properties reference and sentenced them to 10 years, seven years and one year, respectively, in prison.
On July 16, the Sharifs and Captain Safdar had filed appeals for the Avenfield verdict to be overturned. Their lawyers had also filed petitions that argued that until the IHC adjudicates on the appeals against the accountability court's decision, the convicts should be released on bail.
In the appeals, counsel Khawaja Haris had argued that the prosecution must establish its case beyond a shadow of a doubt in order to shift the onus of proof on the accused, but in the Avenfield properties reference the prosecution failed to establish such a case.
Referring to a 2007 judgement of the Sindh High Court passed in the Hakim Ali Zardari case, Haris had explained that to establish its case, the prosecution was required to establish four points — (a) the accused was holder of public office, (b) nature and extent of pecuniary resources or property which were found in his possession, (c) what were his known sources of income i.e. known to the prosecution after thorough investigation and (d) such resources or property found in possession of the accused were disproportionate to his known sources of income.
“There is no burden of proof on the accused when the prosecution can not prove these four ingredients,” the counsel insisted in the appeal.
The court had subsequently ordered that the appeal against the verdict be fixed for hearing in September.
After hearing the petitions for the convicts’ interim release on bail in detail, the court had issued an interim order that read:
“Section 32 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999 provides for a time frame for deciding the appeals. Since the learned division bench has directed fixing of the appeals, at this stage we are not inclined to decide these petitions and they shall remain pending and be fixed along with the appeals. In case, there is delay in deciding of the appeals then the petitioners shall be at liberty to press these petitions.”
The court had subsequently directed the Supreme Court Registrar's Office fix the case immediately after the summer vacations.