Opposition lawyers plead PM’s disqualification as Supreme Court hears Panama case
ISLAMABAD: A three-judge Supreme Court bench seized with the Panamagate implementation case adjourned the hearing on the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report till Tuesday (tomorrow).
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Haris was on his feet putting forward his arguments when the judges rose for the day. The counsel for other parties concluded their arguments over the JIT findings and unanimously pleaded with the judges to disqualify the prime minister.
The bench of the apex court comprised of Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Hassan resumed the hearing today on the JIT report submitted on the offshore wealth of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family.
The Sharifs’ legal team has filed the objections in the court, rejecting the report in its entirety. It termed the findings biased, politically motivated and an attempt to tarnish the image of the prime minister and his family while pleading to judges to nullify the report. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar also filed his objections to the report.
PTI pleads with SC to disqualify PM
Concluding his arguments over the JIT findings, PTI lawyer Naeem Bukhari requested the judges to summon the premier to cross examine him in light of the findings. He also pleaded with them to disqualify him for he had failed to defend allegations against him and his family.
Bukhari argued that the Qatari letter was a concocted story and added that the JIT wrote four letters to Qatari prince to record his statement but he failed. The probing team rejected the Qatari royal’s letter and held that it was unnecessary to record his testimony, he added.
When asked about authenticity of the documents with regard to Jeddah Steel Mills, Al-Azizia Steel Mills, and Hill Metals Establishment, PTI lawyer said these documents were not verified though they were considered accurate by the investigators.
PM’s offshore company
PTI lawyer Naeem Bukhari opened his arguments with findings of the Panama JIT report, highlighting inconsistencies and contradictions in the statements of the Sharifs about their assets.
Justice Azmat inquired as to how documents showing PM Nawaz Sharif owning an offshore company, Capital FZE, were acquired. Whether these documents were valid and acquired through a legal process, he asked.
To which, Bukhari replied that these documents were acquired through a legal aid. PM’s son Hussain Nawaz stated the company was dissolved in 2014 and no other family member was associated with it, he said and added, however, the documents proved otherwise as Mr Sharif was found to be chairman of the company’s board.
Justice Azmat observed that the documents showed the PM had been receiving remunerations, but not monthly salary.
“According to the documents, the salary of the premier was ten thousand riyals and these documents bore his signature,” argued Bukhari.
Bukhari told the judges that Maryam Nawaz Sharif was the real owner of the Avenfield apartments as the trust deed executed between her and Hussain Nawaz was found to be fabricated by the JIT.
JIT report said Maryam had submitted fake and fabricated documents to the JIT and it found Maryam, Hussain and her spouse captain Muhammad Safdar guilty of submitting manipulative facts and misleading the SC, he argued.
JIT report had revealed that Safdar misstated that he did not know about the owner of the apartments and his contention is absolutely untrue as he was a witness to the trust deed regarding the apartments executed in 2006.
Objections to JIT report
PM’s lawyer Khawaja Haris contended that the probe team exceeded its jurisdiction and collected documents in violation of relevant laws. The report cannot be used as evidence against the Sharif family, he added and prayed to the court to set aside the JIT report and the petitions filed by the opposition parties.
Irked by his unnecessary arguments, Justice Ejaz asked the counsel to focus on the issues involved in the report to save court’s time. He remarked that the nature of allegations warranted such probe.
Speaking to media at the premises of the Supreme Court, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the entire nation was fixated on the Panama case hearing for it will have significant influence on the future of Pakistan. PTI alone was not demanding the PM’s resignation as other political parties have also joined the demand, he said and added that a segment from the ruling party was also demanding the resignation.
PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said, “Panama-III has begun today. The rulers are using delaying tactics. The PM is responsible for current political imbroglio. He will have to go home.”
Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) chief Farooq Sattar said the PM had lost moral authority to stay in office. The PM should resign for the sake of democratic system and the ruling party should bring in new PM, he added.
Jamaat-i-Islami chief Siraj ul Haq said the PM had no other option but to resign because he did not fulfill the requirements of Article 62 and 63 of the 1973’s Constitution.
The opposition is counting on the apex court to send Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif packing in the wake of the Panama JIT’s disclosures about him and his family allegedly involved in money laundering. Whereas, the government is pinning its hope on the court to give a fair hearing to its objections to the report, which it had termed a pack of lies and speculations.
A voluminous JIT report had rejected the Sharifs’ explanation for how they have come to own the London apartments and accused them of holding assets beyond their known sources of income.
After the release of the report, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been under immense pressure to step down, but he has resolved to stay in office, terming these findings a witch hunt.
PTI chief Imran Khan has been anticipating a big goodbye reception for the premier in Islamabad this week and has asked his party members to be ready to chase Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Adiala Jail as his wrongdoings had been exposed. Within a few days he would call people to celebrate their victory against the corrupt mafia, he added.
PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry believed that the Panama case will reach its logical conclusion by the end of this week and warned that if the way of justice was obstructed the party would ask its workers to “help us gain justice”.
He said that the assets of Nawaz Sharif started to rise gradually after he came to power in the 1990s, and money continued to flow out of Pakistan through an organised network.
On the other hand, PML-N has been terming the report a conspiracy being hatched to send the democratic government home. Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal had said earlier,“a political agenda is in the making in the name of accountability against the prime minister and its objectives are not different from dharna I and dharna II.”