Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday turned down a plea filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) seeking an adjournment in Hudaibiya Paper Mills case.

A three-member bench, comprising Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel, Justice Musheer Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Isa, resumed hearing of the NAB’s appeal against the 2014 decision of the Lahore High Court to quash the Rs1.2 billion reference against members of Sharif family.

As the hearing began, NAB lawyer Imranul Haq requested the court to adjourn the case until the appointment of NAB prosecutor. He argued that the NAB prosecutor should appear in such an important case.

Justice Musheer Alam said that arguments for the adjournment of the case were not valid. He added that the case would not be adjourned.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa asked the lawyer not to play a joke with the court, adding that every case was a high profile case for the court.

Afterwards, the court again took up the case after a brief recess. During the hearing, the NAB lawyer informed the bench that the details asked by the court have been submitted.

The bench asked the NAB lawyer why the anti-graft watchdog did not follow the case after the exile of then prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The court also inquired about the circumstance under which Nawaz was went into exile.

In a clear direction, the apex court imposed a ban on discussion regarding the facts of the case on the electronic media.

The case has been adjourned till tomorrow.

Previous Hearing

At the last hearing, the accountability watchdog sought a month’s time to prepare the documents, however, the bench granted fourteen days and adjourned the hearing until December 11.

Let it be known that the bench comprising Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel along with other judges was formulated after Justice Asif Saeed Khosa rescued himself from the case as he was part of the bench that heard the Panama Papers case that led to the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister.

In September, NAB had submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court seeking reopening of Hudaibiya Paper Mills case against Sharif family.

The plea has been filed against the verdict of the Lahore High Court, which had quashed the case in 2014, following the latest revelations made by a report of Panama Papers case Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that had also recommended that the case should be reopened.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, his son Hamza Shehbaz and former finanace minister Ishaq Dar have been made respondents in the case.

Hudaibiya Paper Mills case

The Hudaibiya Paper Mills was allegedly used as a cover up by the Sharif family to launder money outside the country in the 1990s through Ishaq Dar.

Apart from being in the good books of Nawaz Sharif, Dar’s role in investigating the money trail of the first family becomes more central as he spilt the beans regarding money laundering during the second stint of prime minister Nawaz Sharif with respect to the case.

The Hudaibya Paper mills case was discussed extensively in the Supreme Court as well. Ishaq Dar had alleged before a magistrate back in 2000 that the Sharif brothers used the Hudaibya Paper Mills as a cover for money laundering during the late 1990s.

In his confessional statement on April 4, 2000, in connection with the Hudaibya Papers Mills Limited (HPML) case, Dar said that he had good relations with Masood Ahmed Qazi since 1970 and during his stay in London in early 1970s, he was staying with the Qazi family at Ilford, Essex (1970-72).

In his statement submitted before NAB that rocked the political corridors, Dar said, “Masood Ahmad Qazi belonged to a middle-class family and he used to treat me as one of his family members.”

Dar went on to say, “As far as their financial status in the year 1992 is concerned, according to my information there was no significant improvement in the previous status of the middle-class family.”

The finance minister stated that he established a Modaraba company named First Hajveri Modarba Company (FHMC), a Non-Banking Financial Institution (NDFI) in 1990 and the company started its operations next year with a paid up capital of Rs150 million, Dawn news reported.

He said that Nawaz Sharif had been his batchmate at Govt College Lahore during 1964 to 1966, “However, we had no connections at the time.” He came closer to Sharif family in 1990 after he was being recognised at the national level, particularly for his suggestions on national budgets, reads the statement.

According to the document, Dar introduced the Qazi family to Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif in 1990 at a function in Lahore.

“In early 1992, Mian Nawaz Sharif, who was then prime minister of Pakistan, contacted me and requested to provide the credit line of approximately Rs100 million to the business concerns of his family, from my Modaraba… subsequently, he sent me photocopies of the passports of Mrs Sikandar Masood Qazi, Nuzhat Gohar, Talat Masood Qazi and Kashif Masood Qazi (family members of Masood Qazi).

“He asked me to open/operate foreign currency accounts in their names in different banks with the foreign currency funds provided by the Sharif family,” it reads.

Following the presentation of details of transitions and other financial matters, Dar said: “They (Sharifs) made all this arrangement as they could not have explainable sources of these funds which ultimately landed in one of their companies.”

On the other hand, Ishaq Dar while clarifying his position in the backdrop of Hudaibiya Paper Mills case expressed that the confessional statement was taken under duress.