In a written response submitted to the Islamabad High Court on Saturday, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) pleaded that appeals filed by former premier Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Captain (retd) Safdar against the trial court verdict in Avenfield properties case be declared non-maintainable. In their appeals, the Sharifs sought suspension of the accountability court verdict under which they were sentenced to 10 years (Nawaz), seven years (Maryam), and a year (Safdar) in prison.The clause-wise response comprised 11 pages and was attributed to NAB deputy prosecutor general Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi. In it, the NAB raised objections to the Sharifs’ plea for suspension of sentences, noting that the anti-graft body was not initially made party in the pleas. It said NAB investigators had proved charges against the accused, and the accountability court noted down in detail reasons for the prison terms in its verdict.The NAB response maintained that there was no apparent weakness or legal flaw in the accountability court verdict. It said that Sharifs were convicted in the Avenfield properties case on the basis of ‘conclusive presumption’, adding that in lieu of the circumstances of the case, the judgement did not merit suspension. It contended that evidence could be assessed only within the appellate jurisdiction of the high court, and not during constitutional proceedings. Since appeals against the trial court judgement were already fixed for hearing after the conclusion of the summer vacations, the suspension petitions should not be heard until the appeals were disposed of, the NAB response said.The NAB also objected to the formation of a division bench for hearing of the appeals after summer vacations. It maintained that though formation of the bench was the sole prerogative of the high court’s chief justice, but the petitioner was required to make a request for the purpose. No such request was made in the case, it added. Responding to Sharifs’ legal team’s argument that several objections raised before the trial court were ignored in the judgement, the NAB maintained that the prosecution discharged its burden and proved the charges framed against the accused in accordance with the provisions of the NAB Ordinance of 1999. It said that after the presentation of evidence by the prosecution, the burden of proof lied with the accused, but the latter did not present anything in their defence.Earlier on Augut 16, the IHC division bench, comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, imposed a fine of Rs10,000 on NAB for seeking adjournment instead of presenting its arguments, after the conclusion of petitioners’ arguments. It directed the Bureau to conclude its arguments by August 20 (Monday). The bench will now take up the matter on Monday.The trial against the Sharif family had commenced in September 2017. The Avenfield verdict was announced on July 6.The three politicians were convicted for having been unable to establish a money trail for the family’s London flats.Published in Daily Times, August 19th 2018.