The wait is over. The apex court just delivered the ‘historic verdict’ in the most anticipated Panama case today.
It was neither a clean chit nor a disqualification. As expected, the citizens find themselves confused and unclear as to what this legally convoluted and complex decision – that apparently does nothing substantial in the eyes of common people – could mean for the people involved in it or politics in general.
It seems the verdict remains what the political parties take out of it to suit their interests. The PML-N declared ‘victory’ while the opposition welcomes it with mixed feelings.
The people demanding PM’s disqualification contended with the fact that the verdict was split 3-2 among the five-judge bench, with two dissenting notes in the judgement by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed. The two judges ruled against PM Nawaz Sharif, saying he should be disqualified, whereas the other three were in favour of forming a JIT.
Following are the problems and weak points that the verdict identifies in the PML-N’s narrative:
PM’s address to the nation: A plethora of contradictions and unclear stance
Pointing out problems in the PM’s address to the nation on April 5, 2016, the verdict spells out problems for the PM’s own stance. It goes on to cite following problems:
* Did not mention setting up and sale of the factory in Dubai at all.
* Did not explicitly mention any particular resource for acquisition of the properties in London.
* Did not mention that the sale proceeds of the factory in Jeddah were used to acquire the properties in London but maintained that the proceeds were used by his two sons for their new business.
* Did not even hint at any investment made in Qatar and the subsequent settlement upon which the whole edifice was built by his children.
* Proceeds of sale of the factory in Jeddah mentioned as the source of funds for his two son’s business but the said sons maintained that investment with Al-Thani family of Qatar was the source of funds for Hassan Nawaz Sharif business.
PM’s address to the National Assembly: New things with unmentioned details
In his address, the PM claimed his father reached Dubai for the purpose of business and established a factory with the name of Gulf Steel comprising of 10 lac square feet of area. This factory, he said, was sold for $9 million and established another factory in Jeddah which was again sold to buy flats in London.
However, the verdict notes legal complexities and casts doubt:
* Setting up and sale of a factory in Dubai mentioned for the first time.
* No reference made to any investment in Qatar.
* Clearly stated that no money for the factory in Jeddah or the flats in London went from Pakistan. However, it was not clearly stated that no money went from Pakistan for the factory in Dubai.
* The stance about “purchase” of the flats in London was not supported by his children and he produced nothing before the nation, the National Assembly or this Court to explain or justify the claimed purchase.
* In his address to the nation he stated that sale of the factory in Jeddah was the source of funds for his sons’ business but in this address he stated that proceeds of sale of the factory in Jeddah were used to purchase the flats in London.
Sharif’s evidence in the Supreme Court: A suspicious sudden and unprecedented denial
Nawaz Sharif submitted his statements before the apex court. In his statements, he outrightly denied the ownership of property in London, a previously unmentioned ‘fact’ while his clarifications for London flats.
The court notes:
* Never denied possession of the four properties in London.
* Never said that the said four properties belong to his children.
* Did not mention sale of the factory in Jeddah being the sources of funds for acquisition of the flats in London as mentioned in his speech in the National Assembly.
* No mention of the factory in Dubai, the factory in Jeddah or any investment in Qatar.
Mrs Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif contradicts children
Mrs Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif, first lady of Pakistan, while putting weight behind husband’s claims that the flats were indeed “purchased”, also contradicts the stance of her children.
The honourable court observes that:
* Children were studying in London in the 1990’s.
* Supported her husband’s stance that the flats in London had been “purchased”.
* Contradicted the stance of her children that the flats were acquired in 2006.
Mariam Nawaz Sharif retracts her claims to protect father? The court finds so!
In an interview aired on Geo News on November 8, 2011, Mariam said: “I do not have any property in Central London, in fact far from it, I do not own any property even in Pakistan. I live with my father. I fail to understand from where they have dug out properties belonging to me, my mother, my sister or my brothers.”
However, the court, while citing this interview, finds it inconsistent with her current stance. The court notes: ” In 2011 she denied that she or her siblings owned any property in London whereas her stance before this Court is that her brother Hussain Nawaz Sharif owns the relevant four properties in Central London since 2006 and she is a trustee of those properties for the said brother since 2006.”
Mariam makes new questionable claims
Salman Aslam Butt, the counsel for Sharif family, submitted a joint concise statement of the children of Nawaz Sharif including Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz.
It was contended that Maryam Nawaz was not and had never been the beneficial owner of any of the properties or the entities and she had never made any contribution/payment in relation to the consideration or expenses pertaining to the properties or the entities nor had derived any benefit therefrom.
The court was further informed that the entities were being managed under a trust arrangement for the sole benefit of respondent No. 7, Hussain Nawaz with Maryam Nawaz, respondent No. 6 being the trustee thereof.
However, the court found that the claims were new and unfounded. It said: “Did not mention that she was a trustee for respondent No. 7 in relation to Nielsen Enterprise Limited also.”
Mariam contradicts her own statements, gets grilled more by the court
Mariam had further informed the court that she came to know of the settlement in Qatar regarding the flats in London in 2005 when she was asked to become a trustee for her brother. By saying so, she, unwittingly, puts herself in trouble as she is on record to say that she never knew about the flats, even in 2011 she expressed obscurity.
The court points out two loopholes in the new ‘unfounded’ claims:
* That meant that she knew about acquisition of the flats in London by one of her brothers since 2005 but in her interview in 2011 she categorically denied knowledge of any property of his brothers or sister in London.
* She maintained that she had been asked to become a trustee for her brothers in respect of the flats in London in 2005 whereas the flats had statedly been transferred in favour of her brother in 2006. This established that the flats were already owned by the brother since before the so-called settlement of business in Qatar.
Hussain Nawaz Sharif: New contradictions and ‘stories’
In an Interview with journalist Hamid Mir on Capital Talk, Hussain Nawaz said: “The sale of the factory in Saudi Arabia fetched “us” a very good amount and that money was then “officially transferred” to Britain.”
He further said: “From that officially transferred money to Britain I had obtained three properties in London through “mortgage”. Those properties are still mortgaged and the mortgage amount is still being paid for them gradually. “We”, again said “I”, had “purchased” those properties in 2006.”
“All the assets were distributed in 2005 whereafter my father ceased to have any “legal” connection with his sons’ businesses but according to Shariah “everything belonging to me is his” and even I am owned by him.”
The court found new claims and ‘stories’ as unsubstantiated. The claims, the court maintained, lacked all neccessary proofs.
The honourable court points:
* No document produced to show that any amount was officially transferred from Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom after sale of the factory in Jeddah.
* No proof of any mortgage created for acquisition of the properties in London has been produced.
* The story about mortgage was a totally new story and completely contradictory to the other stories based upon purchase or settlement in Qatar.
* A document produced by respondent No. 1 before the Court showed that after the death of Mian Muhammad Sharif in 2004 his inheritance had been settled in 2009 with distribution of assets.
* Under Shariah respondent No. 7 was not an heir of his grandfather Mian Muhammad Sharif and, thus, he did not inherit anything from him in 2004. After the death of the grandfather in 2004 all his assets, including any investment in Qatar, automatically devolved upon his heirs including respondent No. 1. So, respondent No. 1 was one of the owners of the assets which were statedly transferred in favour of respondent No. 7 in 2006 and that is why respondent No. 7 might have said that “everything belonging to me is his”.
Claims of Sharif family completely destroyed, belied: Honourable court
In one of the interviews, Hussain contended that in 2005 he sold a factory in Saudi Arabia and proceeds of that factory were used to purchase these properties. “This is the source and there is nothing except this.”
“The factory that was installed in Saudi Arabia was sold in 2005 by us and a part of those proceeds was used to purchase the properties in London. The companies that were holding those properties were purchased.”
The court responds vehemently to this completely baseless claims. It says:
* The subsequent stand that the properties in London had been acquired through a settlement of an investment in Qatar stood completely destroyed.
* The subsequent statement of the gentleman from Qatar to the effect that bearer shares of the relevant companies were delivered to respondent No. 7 in exchange of settling approximately 8 million US Dollars from an investment in Qatar was completely belied.
A case of obvious and deliberate suppression of facts: Court
A Joint concise statement filed by children of premier Sharif which dates back to November 07, 2016, said: “Source of funds, resulting in vesting of beneficial ownership of the entities and, consequently the properties in Respondent No. 7, in January 2006, was the investment made by late Mian Muhammad Sharif, in the year 1980, from the sale proceeds of his steel business in Dubai.”
The court calls it a ‘deliberate suppression of facts’:
* The first statement of the gentleman from Qatar was dated November 05, 2016 but that was not mentioned in this concise statement filed two days later.
* A case of obvious and deliberate suppression of facts. Qatar was not even mentioned.
* The statement of the gentleman from Qatar dated November 05, 2016 mentioned the amount of investment but this concise statement did not.
* Did not mention setting up or sale of the factory in Jeddah which, according to respondent No. 7’s interviews, was the source of funds for purchase of the properties in London.
New story of PM’s children about Qatari involvement underwent a sea change, lacks proof: Court
Joint supplementary concise statement filed by respondents Sharif children of November 15, 2016 had said that the four flats in London had been purchased by Al-Thani family of Qatar through two offshore companies, the said family had allowed late Mian Muhammad Sharif and his family to use the said properties whilst bearing all the expenses relating to them including ground rent and service charges and ultimately in 2006 the account between Al-Thani family and Respondent No.7 was settled through which the properties were transferred to him by delivery of the bearer shares of the companies to a nominee of respondent No. 7.
The court refutes the claims and expresses shock over new change, the verdict says:
* The story jointly put forward by the children of respondent No. 1 underwent a sea change. Al-Thani family and investment in Qatar was introduced and permissive user of the properties in London was disclosed.
* Contradicted by respondent No. 8’s interview with BBC in 1999 according to which he was then a student living in these flats which had been taken on rent and the rent for the same was sent from Pakistan on a quarterly basis.
* Contradicted by both the parents of respondents No. 6, 7 and 8 who have consistently maintained that the said properties had been “purchased” or “bought”.
* No material produced to show who paid the utility bills and taxes, etc. relevant to the said properties before 2006.
Hassan Nawaz contradicts mother, gets contradicted by father and Qatari man
In an interview on Hard Talk, BBC London in November 1999, Hassan Nawaz categorically stated that he was a student with no earnings of his own, he did not own the relevant flats in London but he was living in the same on rent and the money for his living in those properties came from Pakistan on a quarterly basis.
However, the court notes extreme contradictions and inconsistencies with other family members, it says:
* Contradicted by his mother who had told Guardian newspaper of London that the said flats had been “bought” because the children were studying in London.
* Contradicted by his father who never talked about taking the relevant flats on rent.
* Contradicted by two statements of the gentleman from Qatar who maintained that permissive possession of the flats had been given to the family of Mian Muhammad Sharif with no charge.