ISLAMABAD – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday filed a petition in the Supreme Court against an alleged campaign by ruling party to impede investigation proceedings in Panama case.
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In his application, the PTI chief stated that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Finace Minister Ishaq Dar outlined the strategy to defame judges and members of joint investigation team, adding that this policy was being followed by other members of PML-N “with object to obstruct the administration of justice and hamper, impede and malign the investigation proceedings”.
“It has been noticed with utmost concern that Respondent No 1 [PM Nawaz], by using his position and clout, has started a malafide and malicious campaign against the judiciary and the JIT with criminal intention to hamper and impede the process of the investigating proceedings,” tribune.com quoted the petition.
“A general impression has been given to the public at large as the ruling family is a prey and victim of an unlawful judicial process and on the pretext profane and irreverence have been continuously attributed to the respected judges of this court for directing further probe of the family through a JIT,” it added.
The six-member Joint Investigation team tasked to probe offshore assets of Sharif family submitted its reservations in the apex court on Tuesday.
According to the detailed reply submitted by the Wajid Zia led investigative team, PM House, Intelligence Bureau (IB), SECP, NAB, FBR, Law Ministry and other related departments were hindering the investigations into the dealings of ruling Sharif family.
In its application, the JIT alleged that Chairman Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Zafarul Haq Hijazi “was instrumental in closing the investigation of money laundering case launched against Chaudhry Sugar Mills Limited” owned by the Sharif family, in 2016.
“This act of backdated closure of investigation… is a criminal act, with a view to facilitating the Respondents (the Sharif family) against whom the present investigation in being conducted,” it said.
It said the SECP chairman’s orders to tamper the record and close investigation against Chaudhry Sugar Mills Limited were executed by SECP Executive Director Ali Azeem Ikram, whose name was forwarded by the chairman to be a member of the present JIT “with a clear intent to subvert the investigation of the JIT”.
The application further accused the SECP of restricting its own officers from inquiring about the requests handed to them by the JIT.
The JIT said it had asked the SECP to provide documents regarding investigations about Chaudhry Sugar Mills or any other company related to the Sharif family. However, an SECP officer ─ whose name was withheld for security reasons ─ claimed that the SECP chairman did not allow him to check from all concerned departments of the SECP and confirm whether there were other inquiries against companies owned by the Sharif family.
IB Hacked JIT member’s Social Media Handle
The JIT application levelled serious allegations against the Intelligence Bureau and claimed that the Facebook account of Bilal Rasul- a member of JIT representing SECP- and his wife was hacked.
“The Facebook account of Mr Bilal Rasul, which is also used by his wife/family, was ostensibly hacked to retrieve the contents attached [with the application]… without the consent of Mr. Bilal Rasul or his family,” it alleged.
This was done, read the application, “ostensibly through the facilitation of the IB”.
Moreover, it said the application filed by Hussain Nawaz to the SC, in which he had raised objections against two JIT members Bilal Rasul and Amer Aziz, was accompanied with CNICs of Rasul and Mian Azhar. These CNIC copies bear the requisitioning number printed by National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) for identification of the institution/intelligence agency which seeks such documents for official purposes.
The JIT revealed that the requisition of CNIC copies was made by the IB from Nadra and the same was provided to Hussain Nawaz, PM’s elder son.
In another damning revelation, the JIT said Hussain’s application contained copies of screenshots from the social media account of Bilal Rasul and his family.
The investigative team also alleged the IB, which functions under the federal government of ‘adversely questioning’ the housekeeper of the JIT member, causing fear amongst his family members.
It also alleged that the IB officials “found loitering” near the house of one of the JIT members on May 24.
The application, that seems more a charge-sheet against the government and state institutions alleged the graft-buster of employing an underhand strategy to overawe one JIT member, Director General NAB Balochistan Irfan Naeem Mangi.
According to JIT’s report, Mangi received a show cause notice dated April 25, 2017 by NAB in relation to the “relevancy of his experience at the time of his induction [in the bureau], back in 2004”.
When Mangi requested NAB authorities to allow him some extra time to respond as he was involved in JIT investigation, the anti-graft body sent him a letter dated May 31, 2017, instructing him to submit his reply within 15 days “failing which an ex-parte decision would be taken against him”.
The JIT said the show cause by NAB at that time was likely to distract Mangi in his performance as a JIT investigator and to harass him.
Ministry of Law and Justice obstructing JIT
The role of Ministry of Law and Justice controlled by the federal government has also been questioned by the Joint Investigation Team.
Citing the delay in the issuance of the notification which would have notified member countries of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) of the authorisation of the JIT head, the application noted that this was proof enough that “the government machinery is being used so as to attempt to frustrate the proceedings of the JIT”.
The notification in mention was particularly important as it would have enabled the JIT to undertake Mutual League Assistance (MLA) in acquiring or certifying documents from foreign countries.
Laying the blame straight on the government, the JIT application reads: “The matter was intentionally lingered at the behest of [the] Ministry of Law and Justice.”
FBR’s Concealment of Documents
The Federal Board of Revenue has also been blamed for alleged concealment of documents when asked to present the income and wealth tax records and tax returns of the Sharif family from 1985 till date.
The reply states: “The FBR has not taken the plea that it is only required to maintain tax records for five years”, while it has offered only “piecemeal, incomplete and selective” records from 1985 till date.
“No plausible explanation has been given as to why a truncated set of records is being given,” the application continues.
The application also alleges that confidential correspondence is being “consciously leaked” to the media in an effort to undermine and scandalise the investigation.
The document submitted to the Supreme Court also reveals the JIT’s displeasure at the leak which resulted in the summon letter issued to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif being distributed to select media outlets.
“It may be noted that the leak of ‘confidential’ letter/information is a crime in itself,” the application stated as it went on to highlight how the release of such sensitive information could “accentuate security at the time of the appearance of witnesses before the JIT”.