Courting arrest: Father-daughter duo sent to Adiala, Sihala

ISLAMABAD /LAHORE: Exactly one week after their conviction by an accountability court in a corruption case, former premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam arrived on Friday evening at their political bastion of Lahore, only to be arrested outside their plane and flown to Islamabad to their respective places of confinement.

Contradictory reports, conflicting information and inaccurate news kept doing rounds throughout the day creating confusion and panic. Some media reports claimed that former PM and his daughter were to be detained by the authorities in Abu Dhabi.

When the plane carrying Sharif and Maryam was on way to Lahore, a private television channel ran the ‘breaking news’ that their flight was diverted to Islamabad. However, none of these reports proved true.

Nawaz, Maryam depart for Pakistan

Sharifs, who were awarded rigorous imprisonment in Avenfield apartments case on July 6 while they were in London to see Nawaz Sharif’s ailing wife, landed at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport at around 8:50 pm in Etihad Airways flight EY-243 from Abu Dhabi.

The flight was delayed for over two hours due to some technical flaw. To arrest the convicts, two National Accountability Bureau (NAB) teams under NAB Lahore Director General Saleem Shahzad were present at the airport, amid unusually heightened security.

As their plane landed on the airport at the Hajj Terminal, a team of the Airport Security Force (ASF) entered the aircraft and got hold of their passports. However, the PML-N workers inside the plane tried to create a scene and offered resistance. There are also reports of a scuffle inside the plane.

When the duo at last came out of the plane, Maryam reportedly tried to walk towards the terminal but was denied permission. There NAB teams took them into custody and escorted them to chartered plane that soon flew them to Islamabad.

Strict security arrangements were made inside the airport and in its surroundings. Heavy contingent of the ASF personnel were deployed to deal with any emergency situation.  Only the passengers and staff were allowed to enter the airport after thorough checking.

Upon their arrival in the federal capital, the father and the daughter were taken to Adiayala Jail. However, Maryam was later taken to Sihala Police Training College Rest House Islamabad which has been declared as sub-jail.

Earlier, Islamabad’s chief commissioner issued a notification saying both the convicts would be kept in Sihala Police Training College Rest House. But later, the chief commissioner issued a fresh notification, saying only Maryam would be kept in the rest house.

Muhammad Bashir, judge of accountability court that sentenced the Sharifs in Avenfield case, issued their imprisonment warrants. NAB had requested the judge to allow exempting the convicts to appear before him in the accountability court due to security reasons. Entertaining the request, the judge appointed a magistrate to visit Adiyala Jail to implement the warrants.

Official sources said a team of four physicians earlier conducted a preliminary medical examination of Sharif and his daughter, which included recording blood pressure, pulse and heartbeat rate and doctors cleared the two fit for imprisonment after declaring them ‘normal.’

Sources said Sharif’s team has applied for ‘Better Class’ facility in Adiyala Jail where Captain (retired) Muhammad Safdar –Sharif’s son-in-law who is also convicted in the case – is detained. Both Sharif and Safdar are likely to get ‘Better Class’ in their capacity as former parliamentarians, it is learnt.

Sources in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said an appeal against the accountability court’s decision in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has already been prepared by their counsel Khawaja Haris to challenge the conviction.

The appeal would expectedly be filed today (Saturday) and it is likely to be heard on Monday or Tuesday. Under NAB’s relevant laws, an accused who has been facing corruption reference or is convicted accordingly can neither get protective bail against arrest nor appeal in a higher court.

The accused have to surrender before the authorities for arrest and appear in person before the higher court of law to avail legal remedies like filing appeal against conviction and seeking stay order against arrest.

The PML-N is expecting that Sharif, Maryam and Safdar would get bail after making physical appearance at the IHC. After their surrender, the convicts are now required to appear in-person in the IHC to file appeal against the accountability court’s decision in Avenfield Apartments reference case.

The IHC can issue stay order against the accountability court’s decision and grant bail to the accused for a specific period or till the completion of trial.

Accountability court’s nocturnal action

In an unusual move, an accountability court sprang into action at around 10:00pm on Friday night to fulfill the legal formalities for shifting the former PM and his daughter to jail without producing them before the court on account of security concerns.

The otherwise dark corridors of the Federal Judicial Complex during the quiet and late hours on Friday suddenly came to life when the Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir and NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi paid a flying visit to the court for the issuance of the warrants of imprisonment for the convicted Sharifs duo.

Reporters and media representatives who had gathered to cover the possible production of Sharif and Maryam before the court were not allowed to enter the premises. NAB prosecutor later briefed the media about proceedings and revealed that the convicts would be taken to jail directly from Islamabad International Airport.

In the late night hearing, Judge Bashir issued warrants of imprisonment carrying details of sentences announced on July 6. The judge convicted the father and daughter and awarded 10-year sentence to Sharif and seven-year sentence to Maryam apart from imposing a fine of eight million & two million pounds, respectively, on them.

Twitter reacts as nation awaits Nawaz, Maryam’s return

The court order addressed to the Superintendent Central Jail Adyala states: “Accused/convict has been arrested. Vide order dated 13-07-2018, it is allowed that said accused/convicts be handed over to said Jail Superintendent in presence of Mr Wasim Ahmed Sub Divisional Magistrate, Islamabad.”

“This is to authorise and require you, the said Superintendent, to receive the said accused/convict into your custody in the said Jail, together with this warrant and there carry the aforesaid sentence into execution according to law,” the order read.

Apart from the court, the Islamabad’s administration as well as the Ministry of Law And Justice immediately swung into action after Sharif and Maryam were brought to the capital by issuing notifications pertaining to sub jail and jail trial, respectively, for the remaining two NAB references – Al-Azizia & Hill Metal and Flagship and other companies.

Also, the law ministry’s notification surfaced late at night specifying Adyala jail to be the place where the accountability court shall sit for trial of the remaining references against ex premier and others. By the court orders and notifications, the authorities have eliminated any chance of producing Sharif and Maryam before the court on Friday or in the morning.

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