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A Legal Victory
A Legal Victory

A Legal Victory

IHC acquits Maryam, her husband in Avenfield reference

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has acquitted Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Maryam Nawaz and her husband Captain Safdar in the Avenfield case, paving the way for former premier Nawaz Sharif’s scion to enter parliamentary politics.

On July 6, 2018, an accountability court sentenced former premier Nawaz Sharif to a total of 10 years in prison in a reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on the order of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Panama Paper case.

Maryam and her husband were also accused of corruption and the accountability court judge, Muhammad Bashir, also gave them jail terms of respectively seven years and one year.

Maryam and Safdar, who got bail after two months of imprisonment, challenged the accountability court’s decision in the IHC whose division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani heard the case for ten months.


During the hearing, Justice Kayani once remarked that the joint investigation team (JIT) formed by the SC to probe into the Panama Papers scandal had just collected information and not presented facts. “The opinion of the investigation officer could not be considered as evidence,” he added. The NAB prosecutor told the court that Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) former director Wajid Zia – who headed the JIT – had overviewed the documents himself and expressed his opinion on them.

Justice Kayani also inquired about the other documents the prosecution had produced apart from oral statements.  “What is the position of Nawaz Sharif in this case?” the judge asked. The NAB prosecutor replied that Nawaz claimed that he had no relation to the property.

The court remarked it was the responsibility of the prosecution to prove that Nawaz had a link with the property. “On the basis of these documents, NAB prepared the entire case against Maryam Nawaz,” the judge noted.

Justice Farooq noted that a father does not necessarily become the owner of the property in the name of a daughter.” The NAB prosecutor told the court that Sharif family had not submitted any documents in its defence.

“Why should they have presented any documents? It was not their job. NAB had to prove the case against them,” Justice Farooq remarked. Later the court announced its verdict and acquitted Maryam Nawaz and Capt (retd) Safdar in Avenfield reference.

Commenting on the verdict, Advocate Khawaja Naveed said it is very unfortunate that NAB failed to fight their case in the court. They failed to present facts on which judges’ gave their verdicts.


“If the Avenfiled property does not belong to Nawaz Sharif then why is he living there? Has he produced any rental agreement before the court?  In which capacity is he using that property?

“Every day we are watching on social media that Nawaz Sharif is coming out from these flats and Pakistanis living over there stage a protest in front of the Avenfield apartments.”

He said it was a simple and very much clear case that Nawaz Sharif has been using Avenfield property for the last many years whereas in the court they are claiming that property does not belong to them.

“I would not blame the judges; it was the responsibility of the prosecutor to present facts before the court. Because of such cases, our judicial system is at 131 in global rating. I am afraid this number will go down in future,” he added.

The Avenfield reference

The Avenfield reference was one of the three references that NAB filed against Nawaz Sharif and his family members on the order of the apex court in the Panama Papers case.


The Panama Papers revealed that the Sharif family owned Flats No16 and 16-A, 17 and 17-A at Avenfield House, Park Lane next to Hyde Park on the edge of Mayfair in London’s most expensive district.

The leaks further revealed that the four apartments were owned by shell companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, a popular tax haven.

In 2008, Nawaz’s daughter Maryam and son Hussain used the assets of those two companies and a third BVI company – Coomber Group – to raise a £7M loan from the Swiss arm of Deutsche Bank.

In its reference, NAB had alleged that the luxury flats, which the Sharifs had been using since the 90s, were bought from illegitimate money. Rejecting the allegation, the family claimed that it bought the apartments in 2006 after selling a paper mill in Saudi Arabia.

When the Panama Papers surfaced, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and some other parties moved the Supreme Court whose larger bench while disqualifying former premier Nawaz Sharif ordered NAB to file references against the Sharifs.

The SC had later directed the accountability courts to decide the case within six months but later the court sought extensions thrice.


On July 6, 2018 an accountability court judge who was working under the supervision of an apex court judge convicted the Sharif family in the Avenfield apartment reference.

Maryam plea in the IHC

In August 2018, the Sharif family filed appeals against its conviction in the IHC. On September 18, 2018 the IHC suspended the sentences and released the Sharifs on bail. In October 2020, Maryam filed a new application in the IHC seeking annulment of the accountability court’s verdict.

In her application, Maryam stated that the entire proceedings that resulted in her conviction were a “classic example of outright violations of law and political engineering hitherto unheard of in the history of Pakistan”.


The three members of the Sharif family were indicted in the case on October 29, 2017. Nawaz Sharif’s two sons – Hassain and Hasan – were declared proclaimed offenders on December 4, 2017.


On January 22, 2018 NAB filed a supplementary reference against Nawaz Sharif, his children and son-in-law after receiving response from the foreign jurisdiction regarding which the JIT had done some correspondence seeking mutual legal assistance.

During cross examination on February 23, 2018 forensic expert Robert Radley admitted that Calibri font was available in a limited scale in 2005. Nawaz Sharif gave testimony in the Avenfield reference on May 23, 2018.

On May 28, 2018, Maryam denied ownership of the London flats and shell companies. On June 7, 2018 NAB prosecutor told the court that Nawaz Sharif is the actual owner of London flats. The accountability court, after hearing the arguments of both parties, reserved its judgment on July 3, 2018.


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