ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court of Pakistan adjourned hearing a slew of petitions seeking a probe into Panama papers till Thursday, while it probes further into exchange of gifts between ruling family.
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Counsel for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Makhdoom Ali Khan argued before the apex court to justify the ownership of offshore companies and London flats.
Makhdoom Ali Khan kicked off his arguments by stating that the allegation of tax evasion on premier was factually wrong adding that Nawaz Sharif sent gifts to Maryam through banking channels, a complete record of which was also available and premier also mentioned it in his tax returns.
Makhdoom reiterated that Maryam Nawaz was not dependent on premier Nawaz Sharif and Hussain Nawaz also had a National Tax Number (NTN).
He maintained that the wealth as well as income tax statement of premier Nawaz Sharif was already available with the court, and that he was well within his rights not to disclose bank details.
‘A total of $ 310,000 was transferred from premier’s account to Maryam Nawaz’s account,’ said Makhdoom Ali Khan adding that Nawaz Sharif too had accepted gifts but all of it had been through banks. He argued that Nawaz Sharif did not conceal anything from the court.
Makhdom reaffirmed that Nawaz Sharif was not owner of any flat or offshore company what so ever.
“It could not be determined whether Sharif family mentioned gifts worth $ 1.9 million in their tax returns,” remarked Justice Aijaz.
Justice Azmat Saeed observed that both of the concerned parties did not want to produce any supporting clue regarding the case adding that according to the record available, no income was generated through offshore companies.
‘We are not communicating in Persian language, present record of fiscal years’ said justice Azmat to PM’s counsel.
Regarding the exchange of gifts between premier and his scions, justice Asif Saeed Khosa remarked that the money was handed over as gift instead of some sort of watch. He expressed that the money handed over as gift could be black as well as it could be transferred illegally.
The apex court remarked that during a period of four years, Hussain Nawaz handed over Rs. 520 million to his father as gift however, in Pakistani society father usually gifts money to children.
PM’s counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan admitted that for wealth statements of 2012-13 Maryam’s name was not mentioned under the dependent section due to non-existence of separate column.
At this point, justice Aijaz Ul Ahsan said that the larger bench wanted to inquire about the source of income adding that the money seemed to be in circulation regarding exchange of gift.
Meanwhile, talking to newsmen outside Supreme Court, PTI’s representative Fawad Chaudhry said that the core issue was the money trail regarding Panama case.
On the other hand, minister for railways Khawaja Saad Rafiq expressed the view that PTI chairman Imran Khan was putting Pakistan’s economy at stake for personal vengeance adding that he was not serious regarding the landmark case.
He went on and said that Imran Khan did not come out of his palatial house when many of the PTI supporters were on the streets.
Earlier, the apex court issued notices regarding the disqualification petition filed by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) to all the concerned parties including the prime minister.
During the last hearing, PM’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif also submitted her reply in the apex court which stated that she was not dependent on her father ever since she got married in 1992.
In her reply, she stated that expenditures for Shamim farm house were paid jointly and her share in the tax returns of Shamim Akhter in 2013 was Rs. 5 million while it was Rs. 6 million for subsequent years, 2014 and 2015.
She explained that out of 384 kanals of Shamim Agri farms, 364 kanals were being supervised by her grandmother Shamim Akhter.
“I paid Rs. 12,128,778 as tax in 2016,” Maryam clarified in her response.
According to media reports, prime minister Nawaz Sharif sought immunity from the apex court with respect to his conflicting statements on the basis of article 248 of the constitution.
PM’s counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan argued before the larger bench that article 19 of the constitution ensured freedom of speech to every individual. He reiterated that the premier’s speech had no conflict.
To this, Justice Asif Khosa replied that he was not demanding the right to freedom of speech, instead he was asking for immunity for the premier.
The apex court remarked that a speech made on the floor of the house was used as an evidence against legislators in New Zealand.
Makhdoom maintained that the premier was seeking his right on the basis of article 66 available to every legislator. He referred to the Zahoor Ali murder case and claimed that former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto also sought immunity in that particular case.
He argued that the law of wealth tax was scrapped in 2003 and PTI was demanding PM’s disqualification on the basis of it after 14 years adding that no case regarding non-payment of wealth tax was underway against Nawaz Sharif.
“No evidence suggesting any link of Nawaz Sharif with Dubai factory was available,” said PM’s counsel.
Justice Asif Khosa remarked that the apex court was trying to understand an issue adding that article 66 of the constituion does not correspond to individuals.
“Who is telling the truth, kids or their father?” justice Khosa asked Makhdoom Ali Khan and said that parliament devises law whereas the apex court interprets it.
Justice Azmat Saeed observed that the apex court was reviewing the speech of Nawaz’s address to the nation as well as his speech on the floor of the house.
Makhdoom Ali Khan claimed that the premier could not be disqualified even on the basisi of conflicting statements or statements of his children.
Justice Azmat Saeed remarked that the plaintiffs argued that there was a conflict between statement of premier and his children.