Former PM Nawaz Sharif Cleared of Corruption in Al-Azizia Reference by IHC

In a major victory for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday acquitted him of corruption charges in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference, one of the three graft cases filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal.

A two-member bench of the IHC, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justic Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, announced the verdict after hearing arguments from both sides. The bench upheld Nawaz Sharif’s acquittal in the Flagship Investment reference, another case related to his offshore assets.

The court observed that the NAB had failed to prove that Nawaz Sharif had assets beyond his known sources of income, and that the reference was based on the directions of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case.

The court also noted that the NAB had not presented any direct evidence to link Nawaz Sharif with the establishment or ownership of the Al-Azizia Steel Mills, which was owned by his son Hussain Nawaz. The court said that the NAB had relied on presumptions and assumptions, and that the burden of proof was on the prosecution, not on the accused.

The court also rejected the NAB’s plea to increase Nawaz Sharif’s sentence in the Al-Azizia reference, saying that the accountability court had already awarded him the maximum punishment under the law.

The verdict was welcomed by the PML-N leaders and workers, who celebrated outside the court premises and chanted slogans in favour of Nawaz Sharif. They termed the decision as a vindication of Nawaz Sharif’s stance and a defeat for the “selectors” and the “selected”.

PML-N President and Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother Shehbaz Sharif congratulated him on his acquittal and said that the truth had prevailed. He said that Nawaz Sharif had faced the accountability process with courage and dignity, and that he had been victimized for his democratic struggle.

He also demanded that Nawaz Sharif’s lifetime disqualification as a parliamentarian be revoked, and that he be allowed to contest the upcoming general elections scheduled for February 8, 2024. He said that Nawaz Sharif was the most popular leader of the country and that the people wanted him to lead them again.

PML-N Vice President and Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz also expressed her joy and gratitude, saying that her father had been cleared of all charges. She said that Nawaz Sharif had faced the trials and tribulations with grace and patience, and that he had emerged stronger and more determined.

She also thanked the party workers and supporters for their prayers and solidarity, and said that Nawaz Sharif would soon return to the country to serve the nation. She said that Nawaz Sharif had always fought for the supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law, and that he would continue to do so.

Nawaz Sharif has been ousted from power three times by the military establishment, the judiciary and his own party. He has also been exiled twice and jailed several times. He has always maintained his innocence and claimed that he was being targeted for his pro-democracy and pro-people policies.

He has also accused the “invisible forces” of engineering his ouster and orchestrating a political witch-hunt against him and his party. He has vowed to continue his struggle for the restoration of civilian supremacy and the sanctity of the vote.

He has expressed his desire to return to the country and participate in the upcoming elections, if his health permits. He has said that he wants to serve the nation and resolve the issues facing the country, such as economic crisis, inflation, unemployment, poverty, energy shortage, terrorism, and foreign policy challenges.

He also expressed that he wants to strengthen the democratic institutions and the constitutional system, and ensure the rule of law, accountability, transparency, and good governance in the country. He has said that he believes in the power of the people and their right to elect their leaders. He has said that he respects the judiciary and the NAB, but he also expects them to act fairly and independently. He has said that he hopes for a better and brighter future for Pakistan and its people.

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