A decision on whether the Prime Minister is disqualified or a reference is sent to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for a trial by an accountability court will be taken by the special implementation bench of the Supreme Court after it examines the report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) as well as all the evidence. Resuming arguments before a three-member bench led by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan on behalf of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, advocate Khawaja Haris contended that the six-member JIT has no authority to recommend ‘reopening of cases’ of the Sharif family.
Questioning the authenticity of documentary evidence procured by the JIT from the UAE (Ministry of Justice) and the British Virgin Islands (Attorney General), Khawaja Haris maintained that no foreign government had verified the documents. The Prime Minister’s counsel argued that verified documents are procured through government-to-government channels and documents procured by a private firm from a foreign government have no legal value.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan said the JIT has recommended reopening of the Hudabiya Paper Mills case because the case has a nexus with the ongoing Panama Papers case. Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh observed that the court would examine the evidence collected by the JIT rather than its recommendations and it is the documentary evidence that would provide grounds for the court to decide the matter in hand.
“We are not closing the door to the ruling family members’ submission of explanations,” Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh said; and Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed that if additional documentary evidence from abroad is submitted, including from Luxembourg, the court will entertain it and provide an opportunity to all parties to present their arguments. During the course of proceedings, Khawaja Haris acknowledged that the UAE government had issued an Iqama (resident permit) to Nawaz Sharif as the chairman of the board of Capital FZE, an offshore firm.
Responding to Khawaja Haris’s argument that the JIT did not confront Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif regarding the documents of his employment in FZE, the bench observed that the Premier and his family members did not cooperate with the JIT during the inquiry of the matter. Justice Ijazul Ahsan said the court has been waiting for the Sharif family to provide the money trail from the start of the case; and added that the JIT was established to provide another opportunity to the family to prove the money trail – an opportunity that they have failed to cash in on.
The bench observed that when the Prime Minister appeared before the JIT he stated that he knew nothing about the Qatari Prince’s letter and later stated that ‘perhaps’ he had seen the letter. Referring to the Prime Minister’s May 16, 2016 speech to the National Assembly, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan observed that the Prime Minister admitted to the ownership of the family’s assets and never denied the ownership at any point.
Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan further said that the Prime Minister categorically stated on the floor of the House that the family was in possession of all documents detailing the source of funds used to purchase the Mayfair properties which he would provide at an appropriate forum; but later said that no record was available. Khawaja Haris pleaded that the Prime Minister’s speech to the National Assembly was not part of the judgment and is no longer relevant; to which Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that the Prime Minister’s speech is part of the record.
He further remarked that the court will examine all the documents and then decide whether to send a reference to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) or go for the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Later, the bench adjourned hearing of the case till July 19 (today)