Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – The supreme court of Pakistan adjourned hearing a slew of petitions seeking a probe into Panama papers till Wednesday while advising Attorney General to conclude his arguments by tomorrow.

National Accountability Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry and Federal Board of Revenue chairman Dr. Mohammad Irshad appeared in the court room before the five-member larger bench to present relevant records regarding the alleged money laundering of Sharif family.

Meanwhile, premier’s children also filed an application seeking exclusion of documents submitted by PTI from court’s proceedings taking the plea that the documents were submitted after the conslusion of arguments by their counsel.

As today’s proceedings started, Justice Azmat Saeed asked FBR chairman when the organisation got in touch with foreign ministry regarding Panama Leaks.

FBR chairman expressed that the board contacted foreign ministry immediately after Panama papers surfaced but the name of offshore firm and its director was not enough to take necessary action.

He went on and claimed that FBR issued notices to 343 individuals linked to offshore firms and as many as 39 of the individuals were not residing in Pakistan whereas 52 others denied ownership of any offshore firm. Only 92 people admitted setting up offshore companies.

To this, justice Asif Khosa inquired as to who filed the response on behalf of Sharif family regarding FBR’s notice.

FBR chief replied that Hassan, Hussain and Maryam Nawaz submitted the response.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa inquired whether Maryam Nawaz in her response mentioned about her status as trustee.

To this, FBR head expressed that Maryam did not mention anything about this.

Maryam Nawaz’s response as quoted by FBR chief stated that she was not the owner of offshore firm and owned no property outside Pakistan.

Justice Azmat Saeed lost his temper and remarked that the chairman FBR spent a year for an activity that could merely be completed in seven hours. He expressed that it needed just an hour to check as to who was residing outside Pakistan. He asked FBR official to present record as to when he contacted relevant organisations regarding travel history.

FBR’s counsel expressed before the apex court that he did not have any record to show adding that it was true that FBR did not take prompt action regarding Panama Leaks.

He argued that 39 directors of offshore firms outside Pakistan could not be verified.

Justice Gulzar while throwing weight behind Justice Azmat Saeed expressed that it looked like the FBR needed 3 decades for verification. He asked the FBR head to prove steps taken by the board with relevant record.

He went on and remarked that in other words FBR was trying to imply that it did not do anything regarding money laundering.

Justice Aijaz Afzal observed that FBR should have taken immediate steps regarding Panama papers as it does in other cases where it intends to.

Justice Khosa in a categoric remark clarified that setting up an offshore firm was not illegal.

FBR chairman after concluding his viewpoint before the larger bench, in a brief talk with newsmen expressed that he was a bit scared, however, he got saved.

After FBR, chairman, prosecutor general NAB took the floor to clarify the position of NAB regarding Panama Leaks.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa inquired whether NAB’s prosecutor would represent NAB chairman or assist the five-member bench. He also asked as to who was NAB’s regulator.

To this, NAB’s prosecutor replied that he would assist the five-member bench as NAB’s representative.

NAB’s chairman expressed before the apex court that the graft-buster was well aware of its responsibilities. He expressed that the matter was discussed in public accounts committee in September 2016.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa remarked that NAB’s stance during the committee proceedings was that the Panama Leaks matter was out of its domain however the chairman had authority to take action under NBA’s laws. He said that the apex court would not have heard the case in case relevant departments had taken necessary steps.

NAB’s chairman replied that the graft-buster takes necessary action after investigations by the relevant department.

Justice Khosa said that the apex court would go to any extent to meet the ends of justice.

Justice Gulzar Ahmed asked NAB’s prosecutor to kindly stop his arguments adding that he was asked to assist the bench.

‘It was saddening to listen to NAB’s viewpoint’ said justice Gulzar Ahmed adding that NAB should not tell “fairy tales”.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa remarked that the hearing of landmark case would most probably be completed by Thursday.

Both chiefs were advised to show up before the apex court during the last hearing as counsel for the premier’s children. Salman Akram Raja concluded his arguments regarding the ownership of London flats and offshore firms.

Counsel for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Naeem Bukhari and counsel for Jamaat-e-Islami Taufeeq Asad have already completed their arguments before the apex court.

On the other hand, PM’s counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan also winded up his arguments arguing that the premier could not be disqualified on the basis of the speech he had made on the floor of the house.