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Nawaz’s Protective Bail: Legal Developments in Pakistan

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The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has accepted the pleas of PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif, granting him protective bail in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia cases until October 24, 2023. This decision comes just ahead of Nawaz Sharif’s planned return to Pakistan on October 21, marking his homecoming after nearly four years of self-imposed exile.

Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, had been sentenced to ten years in prison in July 2018 in the Avenfield properties corruption reference for possessing assets that exceeded his known income. He was also sentenced to one year for not cooperating with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). His daughter, Maryam Nawaz, was sentenced to seven years in jail in the same case but was acquitted in September 2022, along with her husband, retired Captain Safdar.

The Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference was another case that had significant implications for Nawaz Sharif. In this case, he was sentenced to seven years in prison on December 24, 2018, and fined Rs1.5 billion and US$25 million. Following his release from jail in March 2019, Nawaz Sharif left for London in November 2019 after receiving permission from the Lahore High Court (LHC). However, in December 2020, the IHC declared him a proclaimed offender in both cases.

Just a day before the IHC’s decision, lawyers from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) moved the court seeking protective bail for Nawaz Sharif in both cases. Notably, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) did not oppose these pleas, as confirmed by NAB Special Prosecutor Afzal Qureshi.

During the court proceedings, the IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb questioned the NAB’s stance on the matter. The NAB prosecutor confirmed that their stance had not changed, indicating that they had no objection to Nawaz Sharif’s return.

As a result of the proceedings, the IHC granted protective bail to the former Prime Minister, ensuring that the police would not arrest him upon his arrival in Pakistan on October 21. The written orders from the court emphasized that since the NAB had consented and decided not to contest the petition, Nawaz Sharif should appear before the court on October 24. This decision allows him to return without fear of immediate arrest.

The decision to grant protective bail to Nawaz Sharif has stirred mixed reactions. While his supporters welcome the ruling, it has raised concerns about the state of the rule of law in Pakistan. Some argue that the selective application of legal remedies based on political alignment raises questions about justice and equality before the law in the country.

Additionally, the suspension of arrest warrants in the Toshakhana case has added another layer to the ongoing legal battles involving Nawaz Sharif. This case involves allegations of receiving luxury vehicles and gifts from the Toshakhana, a department responsible for storing gifts given to government officials by foreign dignitaries. The suspension of the warrants has allowed Nawaz Sharif to appear before the court to address these allegations.

The IHC’s decision to grant protective bail to Nawaz Sharif and suspend the arrest warrants in the Toshakhana case signifies a significant development in Pakistan’s political and legal landscape. As the former Prime Minister prepares for his return, the legal battles and controversies surrounding him continue to be closely watched by both his supporters and critics.

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