ISLAMABAD – The supreme court seems to have sealed the Hudaibiya case reference once and for all, observing that the case was used as a tool for oppression of former ruling family.
In its detailed judgment, that was put forth on Friday, the top court highlighted that the reference had exceeded its expiry date and so the matter died its death while it was languishing through various courts for years.
Though the operative part of the judgment was released last month, directing that the reference could not be re-opened, the detailed judgment specified the reasons for the unexpected move mentioning that neither the Panama Papers case joint investigation team, nor Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had ever issued any explicit directions for the reopening of the said reference.
The SC’s judgement, that would definitely ease the embattled Sharif family states that the dismissal of the case was a well-founded decision as the reference had by then gone well beyond its expiry date.
“While a high court judge later ordered a fresh probe into the case, the SC said the judge had weak grounds to do so,” remarked the bench.
“We have come to the painful conclusion that respondents 1 to 9 were denied due process. The legal process was abused by keeping the reference pending indefinitely and unreasonably. The said respondents were denied the right to vindicate themselves. We have also noted with grave concern the lack of commitment and earnestness on part of NAB at the relevant time,” the court noted in its judgment Penned by Justice Qazi Faiz Essa.
The apex court stated the NAB chairman seems to have done nothing in the last four years to pursue the case adding that the case seems to have been kept pending for an indefinite period, which was “an insult to the legal process.”
While noting that the NAB had filed an appeal after a 1,229-day delay without providing any solid reason for why it dragged the matter, the top court remarked that the Hudaibiya case practically died its death in the accountability court.
The court also scraped NAB’s defence that Nawaz and Shahbaz had themselves been responsible for the delay in the case being pursued, remarking that it was contrary to the facts.
“The Sharif family was deprived of their rights to defend themselves,” outlined the ruling and added that the purpose of the reference seems to have been just to pressurise the accused at a moment of the prosecutor’s choosing.
“The maxim that justice delayed is justice denied comes true when a criminal trial remains pending indefinitely for no reason whatsoever. A procrastinated trial not only adversely affects the prosecution case but may also seriously hamper the defence,” the court wrote.
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 confessed 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 through him.
In his confessional statement on April 25, 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 to 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 former finance minister stated that he established a Modaraba company named First Hajveri Modaraba 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 the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, contacted me and requested to provide a 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),” Dar had mentioned.
“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,” the confessional statement 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, a claim substantiated by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif as well.