Nawaz Sharif’s Sentence in Al-Azizia Reference Suspended by Caretaker Punjab Govt

The caretaker Punjab government has reportedly suspended the sentence of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference, sources said on Tuesday.

According to sources, the government suspended the sentence using its powers under Section 401 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which gives the government the right to suspend a convict’s sentence without conditions or upon any conditions which the person sentenced accepts.

Caretaker Punjab Information Minister Amir Mir confirmed the development, saying that the government suspended Nawaz Sharif’s sentence using its constitutional authority. He, however, clarified that the government could only suspend a sentence, not end it completely.

Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to seven years in jail and fined Rs1.5 billion and $25 million by an accountability court in December 2018 in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case. He was also disqualified from holding any public office for 10 years.

However, in October 2019, his sentence was suspended by the Lahore High Court (LHC) on medical grounds and he was allowed to fly to London for treatment. He remained in self-exile for four years until he returned to Pakistan on October 21, 2023.

He was welcomed by a huge crowd of his supporters and addressed a massive public gathering at Minar-e-Pakistan, where he revealed his plan to steer Pakistan out of crises and restore democracy.

Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) will take up petitions filed by Nawaz Sharif for seeking revival of his appeals against his conviction in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia references today.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb will hear the pleas. Nawaz Sharif had filed the petitions on Monday, stating that he could not pursue his appeals due to his ill health and exile.

He requested the court to revive his appeals and grant him bail pending their disposal. He also sought suspension of his sentence and fine imposed by the accountability court.

Section 401 of CrPC is a provision that empowers the government to suspend or remit the sentence or punishment of any person convicted of an offence. The government can do so at any time without conditions or upon any conditions which the person sentenced accepts.

The section also states that no order under this section shall be made to the prejudice of the accused or other person unless he has had an opportunity of being heard either personally or by pleader in his own defence.

The section further states that nothing in this section shall be deemed to authorise a government to convert a finding of acquittal into one of conviction.

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