Punjab govt approves suspension of Nawaz Sharif’s sentence in Al-Azizia reference

Nawaz Sharif says ‘no wish to take revenge’, seeks support of all ‘constitutional institutions’

LAHORE: The sentence of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo, Nawaz Sharif, in the Al-Azizia reference has been suspended by the interim Punjab cabinet, it emerged on Tuesday.

The decision by the provincial cabinet might raise concerns among other political parties in the country.

Caretaker Information Minister Aamir Mir confirmed the Punjab cabinet’s move, saying the decision was taken while exercising its constitutional powers under Section 401 of the Criminal Procedural Code (CPC), which also authorises it to pardon any offender.

The approval was given through a circulation summary.

“The final decision of the case will be taken by the court itself,” he added.

The development comes on the day when Nawaz is scheduled to attend multiple hearings at an accountability court at the Federal Judicial Complex (FJC) and the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

Nawaz Sharif’s sentence was also suspended under the same law on medical grounds before he left for London in 2019 by the then PTI government.

The PML-N supremo had requested for his sentence to be suspended by the Punjab cabinet, Mir said.

It should be noted that Nawaz was sentenced by an accountability court in both the Avenfield and Al-Azizia Steel Mills references.

The sentence was then challenged in the high court, which had suspended the accountability court’s sentence. Appeal proceedings — for the petition challenging the sentence — were underway when the politician travelled to London, United Kingdom, for medical treatment and did not return to pursue the case.

The PML-N supremo — after he moved to Lahore High Court (LHC) instead of the IHC — was allowed to go abroad for four weeks after his brother and party president Shehbaz Sharif submitted an undertaking in the court assuring Nawaz’s return once his health improves.

The IHC — in Nawaz’s absence — threw out the appeals on account of non-prosecution. The court, while declaring him a proclaimed offender, noted that the appeals were rejected on technical grounds and not on the merits of the arguments.

The applicant can once again file an appeal against the sentence upon his return, the court had mentioned in its verdict.