Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has lambasted three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif over his failure to appear before the court and for knowingly “defeating the system” and “laughing at it while sitting in London”.
“Accused [Sharif] knows that he went abroad after defeating the system. He must be laughing at the system while sitting abroad. It’s a shameful conduct by the accused,” the judge noted on Wednesday.
Justice Kayani was part of the bench presided by Justice Aamer Farooq that was formed last month to hear Nawaz Sharif’s appeals against his conviction in Al-Azizia and Avenfield cases.
The convicted former premier, who was given a rare permission to fly abroad to get medical treatment for a debilitating health condition in Nov 2019, had requested the IHC to hear his appeal in his absence.
The IHC bench had, however, given the PML-N supreme leader 15 days to return to Pakistan and surrender to authorities and on September 15 issued non-bailable warrants (NBWs) for his arrest after he failed to appear before the bench.
On Wednesday, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Tariq Khokhar informed the court that Nawaz Sharif had earlier conveyed that he was ready to receive the NBWs but has once again refused to receive them at his London residence
“An official of the Pakistan High Commission in London, Rao Abdul Hanan, had gone to the Avenfield Apartments but the warrants were not received,” he said.
Khokhar told the bench the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) had also turned down Pakistan’s request to execute the IHC’s warrants of arrest through a county court, saying “they have no mandate to execute order of the IHC”.
This piece of information irked the bench that expressed annoyance over the conduct of the accused.
“We are wasting time here for procuring his attendance while thousands of cases are pending.
“The government should consider in the future how much it costs when it let some accused go abroad. At the moment, the court, the government, the foreign office and the Pakistan High Commission in London are busy executing NBWs for Sharif’s arrest,” said Justice Kayani.
The bench later issued notice to the PML-N leader on the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) earlier petition, requesting the court to recall the bail granted to Sharif in the Avenfield case.
Justice Kayani said the court has given fair chance to the accused to appear before the court, adding that the court will give a judgment once the requirements laid down in the Section 87 (proclamation for person absconding) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) are fulfilled.
He said the purpose of the whole exercise – where the court ensures that a person against whom a warrant has been issued has absconded or is hiding to avoid execution of the warrants – is to ensure that the accused can’t take the plea later on that he was not aware of the court orders.
The judge said according to the Section 87, the court after fulfilling the requirements may publish a written proclamation requiring the accused to appear at a specified place and at a specified time not less than 30 days from the date of publishing such proclamation.
At one point, when NAB Additional Prosecutor General Jahanzeb Bharwana and AAG Khokhar were busy arguing on Section 87 and claiming that the accused was hiding from justice, Justice Farooq quipped: “He addressed the entire nation [at oppositions’ Sept 20 confab] and we are still discussing if he is hiding.”
As Bharwana argued that the IHC can simultaneously initiate proceedings under Section 87 and 88 (attachment of property of person absconding) of the CrPC, Justice Farooq said: “We will cross that bridge when we reach that bridge.”
The court has to first satisfy itself about the evidence in connection with section 87, he added.
Subsequently, the court decided to record statements of Mubashir (in person) and Hanan (through video link) at 1:30pm on October 7 and issued notices to the federal government and NAB.
Before concluding the Wednesday hearing, the court while dictating the order noted that Nawaz Sharif’s absence was without any justification.