ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan held proceedings of the Panama Papers case following the submission of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report.
The special three-member implementation bench began proceedings of the high-profile case a little after 9:30am.
Counsels for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid presented their arguments during Monday’s proceedings.
PTI counsel Naeem Bukhari pleaded with the apex court to summon Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for cross examination, disqualify him from Parliament and send cases against him and his family to an accountability court.
The counsel for JI argued that the premier did not speak the truth during his speech in Parliament.
Sheikh Rashid, presenting his arguments, said the nation was embarrassed to find out its prime minister is a paid employer of another company.
During proceedings, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, who heads the bench, wondered if the JIT can trust the veracity of the documents while Justice Ijazul Ahsan asked the JI counsel to inform the bench to what extent could it implement the JIT’s findings and use its authority.
Prior to the start of the proceedings, the Sharif family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar submitted their responses on the JIT report and objected to the mode of the investigation.
They rejected the JIT report and stated that the investigators worked beyond their original mandate.
The hearing of the case was later adjourned till tomorrow (July 18), when the respondents will be heard.
PTI’s arguments: In his initial arguments, Bukhari said the Sharif family has failed to prove their statements regarding the Gulf Steel Mills in Dubai.
The Gulf Steel Mills was not sold for 33 million Dirhams nor was the payment of 12 million Dirhams to Qatar’s Al-Thani family proved by the respondents, he said.
He added that the UAE justice ministry did not verify the April 14, 1980 transaction of Gulf Steel Mills.
Bukhari also reiterated several other points raised by the investigators in their final report.
In between the PTI counsel’s statements, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, who heads the bench, said as Shehbaz Sharif appeared in front of the JIT as a witness, his statement can only be used to identify discrepancies.
Terming the Qatari letter a concocted tale, Bukhari said the London properties have been in possession of the Sharif family since day one. He informed that the JIT was given documents from a respondent. When Justice Ijazul Ahsan inquired whether they are certified, the PTI counsel replied in the negative.
Taking his arguments further, Bukhari said the JIT wrote four letters to the Qatari prince to record his statement but the royal family member said he was not willing to accept the jurisdiction of Pakistani law. “Even the JIT stated in its report that it is not necessary to record his statement,” he said further.
Bukhari said the Nawaz Sharif is the chairman of the board of FZE Capital, adding that his signatures are on documents related to the company. Justice Saeed asked the PTI counsel if the documents were brought to Pakistan through mutual legal assistance or via sources. Bukhari replied that the JIT can answer that query.
Justice Ijaz asked if the premier received a salary for his services. “According to the records he received remuneration throughout but did not got a monthly salary,” he observed further.
The court then took a brief recess. Once the hearing resumed, Bukhari said there’s a clear difference in the statements of the prime minister’s son Hasan and Hussain.
The PTI counsel said the Sharif family owns assets beyond their means — the conclusion reached by the JIT in its final report.
In his comments, Justice Ejaz wondered if the JIT can trust the veracity of the documents delivered to it without knowing their source.
PTI Spokesperson Fawad Chaudry said that their counsel has pleaded the Supreme Court to summon Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for cross-examination if need be, disqualify him from Parliament and send cases against him and his family to an accountability court.
He was addressing the media after Bukhari wrapped up his arguments.
Chaudhry, a lawyer by profession, stated that the respondents will give their arguments in court tomorrow. He claimed the premier’s daughter, Maryam, faces criminal proceedings for lying to the JIT.
JI’s arguments: Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) counsel Taufeeq Asif said the premier did not speak the truth during his speech in Parliament. He said his client completely agrees with the JIT report.
In response, Justice Ejaz said they have read the report too.
Justice Ijaz observed that you [counsel] have to tell us why we should adhere to the JIT’s findings.
“The entire country knows the JIT’s findings…we are not bound by them,” he commented further.
You [counsel] have to inform us to what extent can we implement the JIT’s findings and use our authority, stated Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed.
Sheikh Rashid: Presenting his arguments in the case. Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid, the third petitioner, said the nation was embarrassed to find out its prime minister is a paid employee of another company.
The opposition leader said there is a face behind every case, adding that that face is of Nawaz Sharif when it comes to the Panama case.
He termed Saifur Rehman and Sheikh Saeed as front men of Nawaz Sharif. Rehman is a former government official and an old associate of the Sharif family.
“Maryam is proven to be the beneficial owner of the London properties,” claimed Rashid.
He said the nation stands with the judiciary and called for sending Nawaz Sharif to jail.
In his brief arguments, Khawaja Harris, the Sharif family’s lawyer, said a reference cannot be submitted on the basis of the JIT report. The JIT was doing what the courts do, he added.
The bench observed that an investigation was required based on the nature of the allegations and was thus directed. “The JIT was not conducting a trial…choose you words carefully,” observed Justice Azmat.
Later, the bench adjourned the hearing till tomorrow, with Justice Ejaz observing that they do not wish to waste the court and the nation’s time.
Objections submitted: Earlier, the Sharif family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar submitted their objections on the JIT report to the court.
The JIT, formed in light of the apex court’s April 20 judgment to probe the Sharif family’s money trail, submitted its 60-day investigation report to the court on July 10.
The report highlighted the failure of the Sharif family to provide a money trail for its London apartments and claimed the prime minister and his children own assets beyond their known sources of income.
Following the report’s submission, the special bench issued notices to all parties to submit their responses.
Strict security measures were in place in and around the Supreme Court in light of the much-anticipated hearing.
Around 700 policemen, along with Rangers personnel and officials of the local administration, were deployed for the hearing.
Strict security measures were also seen around the Federal Judicial Academy, that served as the JIT secretariat, which led credence to reports that the six JIT members could also be attending today’s hearing. However, no such reports surfaced later on.
Politicians from across the spectrum arrived at the apex court ahead of the high-profile hearing.
Media talks: Informally beginning the day’s events, Sheikh Rashid addressed the media saying the entire nation stands behind the apex court. “I’ll first see what the court says before submitting another petition to disqualify Nawaz Sharif,” he said.
Following Rashid, Pakistan Muslim League-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain spoke to the media. He said the Supreme Court is doing what the Parliament should have done.
PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi also addressed the media after Hussain. He said PTI is among other opposition parties that are demanding the resignation of the prime minister. “The government’s strategy since day one has been to delay the proceedings,” he said while answering a question.
JI chief Sirajul Haq, one of the petitioners in the case, said there is no hidden agenda here, the nation only wants a corruption-free country. “Nawaz Sharif has to go now, there is no other way. We want no one in Parliament who does not adhere to articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution,” he said.
The JI chief said they are hopeful that after this case, rule of law will be equal for all and others named in the Panama Leaks will be brought to book as well.
State minister Abid Sher Ali claimed the JIT has concoctions, not facts-based evidence. He criticised Sheikh Rashid’s political career, highlighting his role with as Nawaz Sharif’s aide before the Pervez Musharraf government.
“God willing the apex court will decide the case on merit and not on Imran Khan’s wishes,” he said, adding that despite whatever happened “we respect the honourable judges”.
PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said it is not in Pakistan’s interest for the premier to stay in office for another day. “It seems now the resignation will not be given but taken,” he added.
At the last hearing, the bench also sought from the government transcripts of speeches made by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Talal Chaudhry, Prime Minister’s Political Secretary Asif Kirmani and Railways Minister Saad Rafique. Sources said those transcripts have been submitted to the apex court.
The special bench had also issued contempt of court notices to the editor, publisher and a reporter of The News directing them to submit their response in seven days.
Moreover, the bench directed the JIT head Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Additional Director Wajid Zia to publicly reveal the name of the person who leaked the interrogation picture of the premier’s son, Hussain Nawaz. On June 3, a picture of Hussain appearing before the JIT on May 28 was leaked to the media. In response, the JIT informed the court that it had taken action against the responsible official within 24 hours of the leak and sent him back to his parent department where action was taken against him.
The identity of the official has still not been made public.
Regarding Hussain’s plea to form a commission to probe his picture leak, the court, on July 10, left the matter to the government.
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