Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – An accountability court is hearing a supplementary corruption reference against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and family members today (Friday).

Judge Mohammad Bashir took up the case regarding Avenfield properties shortly, while Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar are present in the court.

Panamagate JIT head Wajid Zia is recording his statement as a prosecution witness in the case. Media reports suggest that the JIT head has presented original letter of Prince Mohammad bin Jasam in the court as evidence.

At last hearing on Thursday, the accountability court partially accepted a plea filed by the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, against submission of entire JIT report in the Avenfield case.

Judge Mohammad Bashir took up the case regarding Avenfield properties after Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar has reached the court.

The court allowed Sharifs to go back after attendance and adjourned hearing untill Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head Wajid Zia appears before the court.

As the court resumed hearing, Maryam and Safdar’s counsel, Amjad Pervez raised questions over the admissibility of the report prepared by the panamagate JIT, which was later used to file corruption references against Sharifs and former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

Before recording the statement of Zia in the court, Pervez argued that Volume 1,2, 6, 7,8 and 9 could not be made part of the case as they only belonged to judicial record. He argued that the NAB, in the light of July 28 verdict, could use relevant record for filing references but the anti-graft watchdog had made the entire report an integral part of the cases.

Volume 3,4 and 5 might be used in the London properties case, the advocate said. He also argued that Zia could not be presented as a witness in the case as he was an investigation officer.

He further highlighted that the JIT in volume 8 had recommended reopening of Hudabiya Paper Mills reference against the Sharif family. Subsequently, NAB filed an appeal pleading top court to declare Lahore High Court’s order to quash reference as null and void but the appeal was rejected.

Citing another judgment of the apex court, Pervez said that the court had declared that a JIT report was not admissible evidence and it might be termed opinion of the investigation team.

In counter-arguments, NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said that the JIT in the Panama Papers case was more of an inquiry commission than a probe team.

“This is not a traditional investigation team. Wajid Zia was not an investigator but he was heading a commission to respond to the questions posed by Supreme Court bench on April 20, 2017 verdict”, Dawn News quoted Abbasi.

He said that the accountability court should treat the JIT report as admissible as landmark July 28 verdict of the Supreme Court relied on it.

In a rejoinder, Maryam’s counsel said that in May 5, 2017 order, the apex court had tasked the JIT with investigating certain allegation against members of Sharif family. He added that JIT had been empowered for investigation under the CrPC, the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 and the Federal Investigation Agency Act, 1974.

It is to mention here that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed three interim corruption references regarding London properties, Al-Azizia Steel Mills, Flagship Investment and other offshore companies against former prime minister, his children – Hasan, Hussain and Maryam Nawaz – and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar in light of the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case.

The anti-graft watchdog recently filed supplementary references in all three cases – Avenfiled properties, Al-Azizia Steel Mills, Flagship Investment and other offshore companies.