Panama case hearing concludes, judgment reserved

 
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ISLAMABAD JULY 21 (TNS): After hearing arguments on the final report of the JIT in the fifth consecutive hearing on Friday, the special implementation bench of the Supreme Court reserved its decision in the Panama Papers case.

The bench began its proceedings around 9:30am.

Salman Akram Raja, the counsel for the prime minister’s children, completed his arguments and earned appreciation from the bench.

Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan headed the three-member bench, comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.

As the respondents’ counsels completed their arguments, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) counsel Naeem Bukhari gave his response on the replies of the respondents.

Salman Akram Raja, the counsel for the premier’s children, informed the bench that there are several law firms in London that operate on Saturdays, to which the bench agreed. He also clarified before the bench that the firm of his predecessor, Akram Sheikh, may have made a clerical error which led to a confusion of dates regarding ownership of offshore companies by the premier’s children. “We cannot even think of submitting false documents in court,” said Raja.

During the hearing, the bench also directed the production of volume 10 of the JIT report, with Justice Azmat observing that they want to keep everything transparent. The bench asked the prime minister’s counsel, Khawaja Harris, to examine specific sections of the volume. They observed that they wanted to keep everything transparent. The bench observed that it would operate strictly within the limits of the law and not trample anyone’s individual rights.

Raja informed the bench that the prime minister’s children are responsible for their own businesses, saying their grandfather aided them financially till 2004. Addressing Raja, Justice Azmat observed, “You did well today”. Presenting his arguments, Raja claimed that the Qatari prince was not given the option of recording his statement via video link.

During the hearing, Justice Ejaz remarked that they will swim against the tide, within the limits of the law, if they have to. The bench observed that action is taken in accordance with the relevant law if the assets of a public office holder are more than his known income sources.

Justice Ijaz commented that the prime minister, in his speech in the National Assembly and before the nation, said he has all the necessary proof but they are waiting for this proof for over a year. The judge observed further that Capt (retd) Safdar’s assets declaration does not mention Maryam’s beneficial ownership of offshore companies.

Later, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s counsel began presenting his arguments before the bench. Dr Tariq Hassan also argued before the court earlier in the week. Dr Tariq Hassan said he was asked tough questions by the bench during his last appearance. He informed the bench that he has submitted 34-year records of his client, which should hopefully answer all the court’s queries. Ijaz observed that even if the Hudabiya Paper Mills is kept aside for a moment, there is sufficient material against Ishaq Dar.

Hassan said he does not have the employment records of the finance minister, who served as an adviser to a Middle Eastern royal family. Justice Ejaz observed that the bench will examine all the documents in detail. Hassan argued that his client is tired of all this scrutiny, saying “This needs to stop”. He said Dar appeared before the JIT as a witness but it seems here that he was a suspect. Justice Ijaz observed further that Dar’s son transferred funds to Hill Metals Establishment. “Tariq Sahab you have done justice to your client. Now let us do justice with him too,” remarked Justice Azmat. The judge further observed that the bench cares about all the respondents and will proceed according to the law. Dr Tariq Hassan later completed his arguments.

The deputy prosecutor general of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) then took the stand. “NAB is pondering whether it can reopen the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case and will make a decision in around a week,” he said. “How long will you think about this?” responded Justice Ejaz.

Afterwards, Naeem Bukhari began his arguments on the replies of the respondents. Bukhari argued that Nawaz Sharif did not declare his association with FZE Capital. “He is not sadiq and amin in front of the people,” he said. When asked by the bench that the other side claims the prime minister did not receive any salary, Bukhari claimed the proof of the premier receiving a salary exists. “Nawaz Sharif concealed payment of salaries and his appointment as the chairman of FZE Capital,” said Bukhari. He added that Hussain gave his father Rs1 billion in ‘gifts’.

The PTI chairman’s counsel claimed the premier lied in his speech in the National Assembly and also violated his oath of office. Justice Ejaz inquired if public office holders can be privately employed, observing that judges are clearly not allowed to engage in private work while in office. The additional attorney general said that there is no clear cut restriction regarding this on the prime minister. Bukhari argued that the matter relates to a conflict of interests. “Maryam is the front woman of her father,” alleged Bukhari.

Justice Ejaz observed that they will have to determine if the prime minister’s children had any source of income in the 1990s.

After Bukhari, petitioner Sheikh Rashid presented his response to the respondents’ arguments. “Nawaz Sharif made threatening remarks regarding the JIT,” said Rashid, adding that this amounts to contempt. He claimed the money trail was not provided to the court despite repeated requests of the bench. “There’s nothing in the case if you take out the Qatari letter,” he added.

When Rashid finished his response, Jamaat-e-Islami’s counsel presented his arguments after which the bench reserved its judgment and adjourned the hearing.