Avenfield case: Nawaz terms inclusion of MI, ISI officers in JIT as inappropriate

  • A questionnaire comprising 127 queries related to the upscale London flats was handed over to the embattled Sharif family.

ISLAMABAD – Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday said that it was inappropriate to include officers spy agencies in the Panamagate joint investigation team (JIT) as he is recording his statement in the Avenfield case before the accountability court.

Nawaz started testifying after Judge Mohammad Bashir resumed hearing of the reference, pertaining to the Sharif family’s London properties. The case is among three filed by the National Accountability Burea (NAB) against Sharif family in the light of the Supreme Court’s directives in Panamagate verdict last year.

Other accused, Maryam Nawaz and Captain (retd) Safdar, who will record their statements after Nawaz, were also present in the court.

The former prime minister in his testimony recorded the answers of 55 questions out of 127 asked by the accountability court.

While recording statement, he termed the inclusion of officers from Military Intelligence and ISI in the JIT, adding that the JIT report was affected by the current tense civilian-military relations.

Nawaz said that he had recorded his reservation about the members of the JIT, formed by the SC to probe financial wheeling and dealings of the Sharif family, as per Article 10 of the Constitution (Right to Fair Trial).

The apex court established a six-member JIT, comprising Federal Investigation Agency Additional Director Wajid Zia as head, Amer Aziz of the State Bank of Pakistan, SECP Executive Director Communication Bilal Rasool, Irfan Naeem Mangi of National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Brigadier (retd) Nauman Saeed of the Inter-Services Intelligence and Brigadier Kamran Khurshid from the Military Intelligence.

He went on to say that some of the members had affiliations with political parties. He said Bilal Rasool was of former Governor Punjab Mian Azhar whose son is affiliated with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Rasool, in the past, has slammed the government of the PML-N, the former premier said, adding that Rasool’s wife a supporter of Imran Khan.

Regarding Wajid Zia, Nawaz said that the FIA official hired services of his cousin’s firm to probe the assets.

Talking about Panamagate verdict that led to his disqualification, the three-times PM termed the ruling inappropriate and unnecessary. He added that apex court’s verdict affected his right to fair trial.

Nawaz also denied ownership of the London properties and informed the court that he had not been privy to any transactions for the acquisition of the properties.

He added, “I was never involved in or associated with the acquisition of the London properties through any real or beneficial title.”

At the last hearing, the accused could not be testified as the defence sought more time to ponder over the questionnaire sent by the accountability court.

When Khawaja Haris, the counsel for Nawaz Sharif, pleaded the court to adjourn the hearing till Monday, the prosecution objected to the plea, arguing the defence just wants to waste time.

However, Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir approved the plea but remarked that the recording of statements will not be delayed further.

The Avenfield reference is among the three references filed against Sharif family by the National Accountability Bureau on the Supreme Court’s directives, last year.

A questionnaire comprising 127 queries related to the upscale London flats was handed over to the embattled Sharif family; the accused were directed to record their statements as per the questionnaire on a request made by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s legal counsel Khawaja Harris began cross-examining Wajid Zia, the head of six-member Joint Investigation Team and the prosecution’s star witness, in the Al Azizia reference.

As many as three references have been filed against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in line with the Panama papers Case verdict.

Besides Avenfield reference, other two references filed by the accountability watchdog pertain to Hill Metal Establishment, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd, and Al Azizia steel mills.

Nawaz Sharif and his sons Hussain and Hasan are accused in all three references whereas his daughter Maryam and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar are named in the Avenfield reference only.