PML-N to challenge Al-Azizia reference’s verdict in IHC

LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has decided to challenge the verdict of the Al-Azizia reference in the Islamabad High Court — five days after an accountability court awarded seven-year jail term to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the case. The court had ordered that Nawaz be "sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a term of seven years along with a fine if Rs1.5 billion and US$25 million". Nawaz’s daughter Maryam Nawaz held a five-hour long meeting with his counsel Khawaja Haris in Lahore today. In the meeting, Maryam mulled over legal matters with the lawyer. According to PML-N sources, Haris would soon file a petition in the IHC against the verdict. After the petition is ready to be filed, Maryam and Nawaz’s counsel will hold another meeting to discuss matters, added the sources. In a short verdict announced on Friday, the court said there was concrete evidence against the former premier in the Al-Azizia reference, and that he was unable to provide a money trail in the case. The verdict read: "In view of section 15 of the Ordinance and consequent upon his conviction of the offence under section 9(a)(v) of the Ordinance, the convict shall forthwith cease to hold public office, if any, held by him and further he shall stand disqualified for a period of ten years, to be reckoned from the date he is released after serving his above sentence, for seeking or being elected, chosen, appointed or nominated as a member or representatives of any public body or any statutory or local authority or in the service of Pakistan or of any Province. The convict shall also not be allowed to apply for or be granted or allowed any financial facilities in the form of any loan or advances or other financial accommodation by any bank or financial institution owned or controlled by the Government for a period of 10 years from the date hereof." Al-Azizia Steel Mills Hussain Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister’s elder son, claims that he received a sum of $5.4 million from his grandfather to establish the steel conglomerate in Saudi Arabia. The payment was made by a Qatari royal on the request of the elder Sharif. Thereafter, scrap machinery was transported from their Ahli Steel Mills in Dubai to Jeddah to establish Al-Azizia in 2001. The JIT constituted to investigate the graft allegations insisted that the real owner of the mills was Nawaz Sharif, and it was being operated by his son on his behalf. Hussain was 29-years-old at the time. The JIT also held that Nawaz Sharif received 97 per cent profit as ‘gifts’ from Hill Metals Establishment, another company established by Hussain Nawaz Sharif in 2005, in Saudi Arabia. Of the amount, Nawaz Sharif transferred 77 percent to his daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif. (Maryam is not accused in this reference). Here as well, the NAB claims that since Sharif received a large profit from Hussain’s companies, he is the real owner and not his son. However, during the proceedings the NAB could not substantiate its claim through documentary evidences and instead placed the burden of proof on the accused.
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