ISLAMABAD: An eight-year-old controversy over whether former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was granted pardon or remission in sentences awarded to him in April 2000 entered a new phase on Tuesday when the Supreme Court received for the first time documents of the presidential pardon.
The documents submitted by the Sindh government show that on Dec 1, 2000, the state ‘remitted’ the sentences of imprisonment in response to a request from the former prime minister that the sentences ‘may be waived’ to enable him to proceed abroad for medical treatment.
The then president Rafiq Tarar granted him the remission under Article 45 of the Constitution on the advice of Gen Pervez Musharraf, then the chief executive of Pakistan, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and chief of the army staff.
Sindh Advocate General Yousaf Leghari submitted the documents through an application filed under Order 33, Rules four and 6, of the Supreme Court before a bench comprising Justice Tassadaq Hussain Jillani, Justice Nasirul Mulk, Justice Moosa K. Leghari, Justice Sheikh Hakim Ali and Justice Ghulam Rabbani that has taken up a belated appeal by Mr Sharif against the sentence in the plane conspiracy case. A request was made in the application to make the additional documents part of the court record.
Issued on the letterhead of the chief executive’s secretariat in Islamabad with the subject ‘Grant of pardon,’ the document said: ‘In terms of Article 45 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the president is advised to: (a) Remit the sentence of imprisonment for life awarded to Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif by the High Court of Sindh in its judgment dated Oct 30, 2000, in Special AT (Anti-Terrorism) Appeal No.43 of 2000 under Section 402b of the Pakistan Penal Code read with Section 7(ii) of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997: and (b) Remit the sentence of RI (rigorous imprisonment) for 14 years awarded to Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif by the Accountability Court, Attock Fort, in its judgment dated July 22, 2000, in reference No.1 of 2000 under Section 9(a)(v) of the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance 1999.’
The pardon was issued under the signatures of Gen Musharraf and approved by then president Tarar.
Mr Leghari told reporters that in his personal opinion Mr Sharif could not contest the upcoming by-election unless the court disposed of the appeal.
On Oct 10, 2000, the Sindh High Court had upheld the life sentence awarded to Mr Sharif by the ATC by turning down a state appeal demanding death sentence for allegedly hijacking the plane carrying Gen Musharraf and 198 other passengers.
Mr Sharif did not file an appeal against the decision at that time, saying the judiciary was not independent because the judges had taken oath under a Provisional Constitution Order.
Later, Mr Sharif went on exile to Saudi Arabia along with his family after striking a deal with the Musharraf government.
Mr Sharif requested the court to set aside the SHC verdict of upholding his conviction by the anti-terrorism court.
Though the Supreme Court on May 26 had allowed the Sharif brothers to contest elections but the controversy regarding the conditional or qualified pardon is still alive as the court in its judgment had held that the issue required deeper probe and factual inquiry.