ISLAMABAD – The special implementing bench of the Supreme Court in Panama case on Tuesday observed that decision to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be taken after taking stock of all available material.
A three-member bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, comprising Justice Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan heard the arguments of the Sharif family in the case and adjourned the hearing till tomorrow. This was the second hearing following the submission of the final report by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT).
Counsel for PML-N Khawaja Haris presented the arguments against the JIT report following the objection raised by the Sharif family in response submitted to the court on Monday.
Sharif Family’s Arguments
Opening the arguments, Khawaja Harris highlighted the 13 questions assigned to the investigation team by the implementing bench to trace the money trail of Sharif family. He added that the JIT exceeding its mandate gave answers of 15 questions.
Haris recalling the April 20 judgement said that there were orders for reopening any case against the prime minister.
To which, Justice Azmat Saeed remarked whether investigating the additional assets of the family did not come under the domain of the JIT.
Terming the money trail of London flats a complicated saga, Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that several issues were related to the original 13 questions of the court.
The main issue is to probe the London money trail, observed Justice Ijaz.
Justice Ejaz Afzal commented that it was up to the court to approve the suggestion of the JIT or not.
Addressing the respondent, Justice Ijaz also asked the counsel that you could say anything in your defence but you did not.
Justice Ijaz also observed that the premier and his sons did not want to tell anything to the investigation team, adding that the primer minister and his children were given chances to defend the allegations against them.
Giving a verdict is not the authority of the JIT, Harris said, Responding to it, Justice Azmat said that the investigation team has made suggestion, while the decision will be made by the court.
Harris asserted that PM Nawaz did not own any offshore company, besides claiming the company, FZE, was owned by Hassan Nawaz.
To which, the bench asked that whether prime minister did not have an aqama, adding that whether prime minister is not father of Hassan.
After the break, Harris resumed his arguments raising objections to the JIT report.
Referring to documents collected by the JIT, Harris said that these should not be considered authentic as these were not verified by Pakistani embassy, a process required for Mutual Legal Assisatance.
Justice Ejaz replied that should we not accept the documents provided to the JIT through MLA.
Justice Ijaz remarked that respondents claimed that a money trail exist but no one provided it to the investigation team.
Justice Ejaz remarked that the case could be took further by the bench or an accountability court as there are only these two ways.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that there was no need to get verification from the embassy for original documents.
Regarding London properties, Justice Ijaz said that it was responsibility of the prime minister to provide record regarding source of funds for purchasing the properties. Decision regarding disqualification of the premier will be made after pursuing the complete material, he remarked further.
During first day proceedings on Monday, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s counsel Naeem Bukhari, Jamat e Islami’s Shaukat and Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid presented their arguments before the court regarding the JIT report.
All the petitioners pleaded the apex court to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the basis of findings dig out by the investigation team during given time period. Naeem Bukhari also asked the court to summon the prime minister for cross-questioning.
Opening the arguments, PTI’s counsel Naeem Bukhari said that the Sharif family could not prove its stance on the Gulf Steel Mills in UAE and payment of 12million Dirhams to Qatari family for business. He added that the mill was not sold for 33million Dirhams.
He said that the investigation team acquired legal assistance in the UAE, adding that the JIT found statements recorded by Tariq Shafi and Hussain Nawaz contradictory.
Shafi gave a wrong statement regarding 1980 agreement with owner of Ahli Steel Company, Dubai in which he held 25 percent shares, said Bukhari.
Bukhari said Qatari letter and work sheets were bogus, adding that the London flats were owned by Sharif family’s Maryam Nawaz since day one.
Naeem Bukhari argued that it was necessary to have a bearer certificate for becoming a trustee, adding that the JIT has declared bearer certificates showed by Maryam as fake after the forensic experts raised objections regarding the font of this trust deed.
He further said that two of five-judge panel of the apex court had announced verdict against PM Nawaz on April 20, while three others sought more investigations.
Bukhari went on saying that there were contradictions in remarks of Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz.
When the court inquired that documents gathered by the JIT were verified, Bukhari said these are not verified but accepted by the investigation team.
The counsel for JI argued that the PM hid truth while speaking in Parliament.
Sheikh Rashid said that the nation was embarrassed after getting known that its PM is a paid employee of another firm.
Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan in between the arguments of Bukhari said that Shehbaz Sharif’s statement before the JIT could only be used to highlight discrepancies.
Justice Ejaz further said the court will give its ruling in consonance with all the legal limits. He said according to the JIT, there was no money for investment in Qatar.
He further said that volume 10 of the JIT report will be made public if it was needed. During proceedings, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan also wondered if the JIT can trust the authenticity of the documents.
Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed said the original documents of Hudaibiya Papers Mills are sealed.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that it was not necessary to accept the whole finding of the JIT report
The court, on July 10, had directed the parties to submit their replies by July 17 after reviewing the JIT report.
On the day of hearing, Sharif family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar submitted their responses raising objections over the JIT report. The respondents also asked the court to declare the report null and void as the JIT exceeded its mandate.
The JIT submitted its final report to the apex court on July 10 after a 60-day long deep investigation highlighting that the assets owned by the prime minister and his children are beyond their declared source of income.
It also stated that the ruling family could not give money trail for its London apartments.
On July 10, the special bench also asked the government to submit transcripts of speeches delivered by PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry, Prime Minister’s Political Secretary Asif Kirmani and Railways Minister Saad Rafique.
The special bench had also served notice of contempt of court on the editor, publisher and a reporter of The News directing them to submit their response in seven days.
It also directed the authorities to register a criminal case against SECP chief Zafar Hijazi for record tampering, besides ordering the JIT head Waji Zia to reveal the name of the person who leaked the photo of Hussain Nawaz.
The Supreme Court decided to begin investigating the Sharif family in November last year after the main political parties failed to agree on a committee to probe the April 2016 Panama Papers leaks, and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan threatened mass protests and to ‘shut down Islamabad’ in protest on November 2.
On April 20, the five-member Supreme Court bench gave its verdict in the case with the judgment split 3-2 in favour of a further probe against the premier’s family wealth. The other two judges had ruled that sufficient evidence was available for the prime minister to be de-seated.
The JIT – formed on May 6 – was given 60 days to complete its probe into the Sharif family’s international financial dealings and submit its report to the Supreme Court’s special implementation bench overseeing its proceedings.
The JIT team is headed by Federal Investigation Agency Additional Director Wajid Zia, and includes members from Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence, SECP, State Bank of Pakistan and NAB.