The interim Punjab cabinet has decided to suspend the sentence of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo, Nawaz Sharif, in the Al-Azizia reference. This move, authorized under Section 401 of the Criminal Procedural Code (CPC), has raised eyebrows among various political parties and has been met with mixed reactions.
The decision to suspend the sentence was confirmed by Caretaker Information Minister Aamir Mir, who stated that the cabinet used its constitutional powers to take this step, emphasizing that the final verdict in the case will still rest with the court itself.
Nawaz Sharif, a former Prime Minister of Pakistan, had previously suspended his sentence on medical grounds by the then PTI government in 2019, allowing him to travel to London for medical treatment. In his recent plea, he requested the Punjab cabinet to grant him this suspension once again.
It’s important to note that Nawaz Sharif had been sentenced by an accountability court in both the Avenfield and Al-Azizia Steel Mills references. However, appeal proceedings were ongoing when he left for London for medical treatment, and he did not return to pursue the case.
The interim chief minister of Punjab, Mohsin Naqvi, commented on the suspension, revealing that a similar application had been submitted to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government led by Usman Buzdar. However, it was rejected at the time. He stressed that the government has now referred Nawaz’s case back to the court for a final decision.
In the wake of these developments, Nawaz Sharif had a busy day ahead, with multiple hearings scheduled at an accountability court in the Federal Judicial Complex and the Islamabad High Court.
Nawaz’s appearance at the accountability court was met with heightened security measures, as the bomb disposal squad conducted a thorough sweep of the courtroom. Heavy police deployment was also evident inside and outside the Federal Judicial Complex, with access limited to relevant lawyers and journalists.
The judge allowed Nawaz Sharif to leave the accountability court while his counsel remained for further proceedings. The hearing regarding the Toshakhana reference was adjourned to November 20, with discussions on the appeal pertaining to property confiscation set for the next session.
The Islamabad High Court also played a significant role in this day’s events. The court granted protective bail to Nawaz Sharif, allowing him to avoid arrest in a case filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). A hearing was scheduled for appeals against his conviction in various references, including the Avenfield and Al-Azizia cases. IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mian Gul Hasan Aurangzeb conducted the hearing.
In these appeals, Nawaz Sharif sought the restoration of his cases against the accountability court’s verdicts, arguing that they had been previously discarded due to his inability to return from London for medical treatment. He insisted that the appeals were dismissed on technical grounds rather than on the merits of the arguments.