Business Recorder
PM Sharif given reprieve, but still faces prospect of disqualification

PM Sharif given reprieve, but still faces prospect of disqualification

-Two of the five Supreme Court judges rule to remove PM -Court for formation of body for further investigation; ISI, MI also given representation -Court’s order highlights, among other things, profundity of white-collar crime challenge


ISLAMABAD: Announcing its reserved verdict in Panama Papers case on Thursday, the Supreme Court issued directives to concerned authorities to form a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe corruption allegations against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his two sons in the matter.

The court also issued directives for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his sons Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz to appear before the JIT and associate themselves with it as and when required.

Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan, President Awami Muslim League Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Emir Jamaat-e-Islami Sirajul-Haq had invoked the apex court’s jurisdiction seeking various remedies including disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members over alleged illegalities in offshore assets in the Panama Papers scandal.

A five-member larger bench led by the senior puisne judge, Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa and comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh and Justice Ijazul Ahsan announced its 549-page reserved judgement after 57 days in while turning down pleas to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a 3:2 split verdict.

Heading the larger bench Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa announced the verdict, saying he and Justice Gulzar Ahmed have given separate declarations and directions for disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on grounds that the Premier is not truthful and trustworthy in terms of Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution and thus rendered himself disqualified from holding the office of a member of National Assembly of Pakistan.

Expressing disappointment over the chairman National Accountability Bureau who, according to the judgement, “appeared to be indifferent and even unwilling to perform his part,” majority of the judges of the bench ruled that such response from the head of the top anti-graft body has constrained them to look elsewhere to constitute a JIT to probe the matter.

The bench asked the director general Federal Investigation Agency, chairman NAB, chairman Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, governor State Bank of Pakistan, director general Inter-Services Intelligence and director general Military Intelligence to recommend names of their nominees for the JIT within seven days.

The bench also requested the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, to form a special bench to ensure implementation of the announced judgment in terms of findings of the JIT investigation into the allegations saying, “We would request the Chief Justice to constitute a special bench to ensure implementation of this judgement so that the investigation into the allegations may not be left in a blind alley.”

Giving separate declarations and directions in the matter, three judges of the bench including Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh and Justice Ijazul Ahsan some asked a number of questions.

Ruling that a thorough investigation in this behalf is required the majority of three judges of the bench hold, “How did Gulf Steel Mill come into being; what led to its sale; what happened to its liabilities; where did its sale proceeds end up; how did they reach Jeddah, Qatar and the UK; whether Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz in view of their tender ages had the means in the early nineties to possess and purchase the flats; whether sudden appearance of the letters of Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani is a myth or a reality; how bearer shares crystallised into the flats; who, in fact, is the real and beneficial owner of M/s Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, how did Hill Metal Establishment come into existence; where did the money for Flagship Investment Limited and other companies set up/taken over by Hassan Nawaz come from, and where did the working capital for such companies come from and where do the huge sums running into millions gifted by Hussain Nawaz to Mian Nawaz Sharif drop in from, which go to the heart of the matter and need to be answered.”

While setting a criteria of six members for the JIT, the verdict said that a senior officer of the FIA, not below the rank of additional director general, shall head the team having firsthand experience of investigation into white collar crime and related matters.

It added that other members include a representative of the NAB, a nominee of the SECP familiar with the issues of money laundering and white collar crimes, a nominee of the SBP, and a seasoned officer of the ISI and MI each.

The bench said that names of all the nominees of the JIT would be placed before them in chambers for nomination and approval.

The verdict loudly expressed, “The JIT shall investigate the case and collect evidence, if any, showing that Mian Nawaz Sharif or any of his dependents or benamidars owns, possesses or has acquired assets or any interest therein disproportionate to his known means of income.”

The verdict said that the JIT may also examine the evidence and material, if any, already available with the FIA and NAB relating to or having any nexus with the possession or acquisition of the Mayfair flats in London or any other assets or pecuniary resources and their origin.

The court further ruled that the JIT shall submit its periodical reports every two weeks before a special bench of the apex court.

Granting two months time to JIT in order to complete the investigation in the matter, the verdict said, “The JIT shall complete the investigation and submit its final report before the said bench within a period of sixty days from the date of its constitution.”

The verdict ruled that the special bench may pass appropriate orders in exercise of its powers under Articles 184(3), 187(2) and 190 of the Constitution including an order for filing a reference against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and any other person having nexus with the crime if justified on the basis of the material thus brought on the record before it.

Article 184 (3) of the Constitution is about original jurisdiction of Supreme Court with reference to the enforcement of any of the fundamental rights. Article 187 (2) is about issue and execution of processes of Supreme Court as such directions of the apex court shall be enforceable throughout Pakistan whereas under Article 190 all executive and judicial authorities throughout Pakistan shall act in aid of the Supreme Court.

“It is further held that upon receipt of the reports, periodic or final of the JIT, as the case may be, the matter of disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif shall be considered. If found necessary for passing an appropriate order in this behalf, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif or any other person may be summoned and examined,” the verdict concluded.

Talking to Business Recorder, former Vice Chairman Supreme Court Bar Association Ikram Chaudhary said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his sons have the right to file a review petition in the matter. Giving dissenting notes in the Panama Papers verdict on Thursday, the lead judge of the five-member larger bench Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa and a bench member Justice Gulzar Ahmed ruled that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif doesn’t qualify to be a member of National Assembly for not being truthful and trustworthy.

Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa said in a dissenting note in the Panama Leaks case verdict that all the three petitions seeking remedy against Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif including his disqualification are allowed.

Moreover, Justice Gulzar Ahmed also wrote dissenting note and partially allowed the prayer of petitioners to the extent of disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the grounds that the Premier is not truthful and trustworthy.

Justice Khosa issued directives to the Election Commission of Pakistan for a disqualification notification of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif from being a member of the Majlis-eShoora (Parliament) with effect from the date of announcement of the present judgment.

Justice Khosa rejected version of Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif’s children explaining how the relevant four properties in London (Properties No. 16, 16a, 17 and 17a, Avenfield House, Park Lane, London W1K 7AF, United Kingdom) had come in possession of Nawaz Sharif’s immediate family or how the said properties had been acquired by the family have been found by him (Justice Khosa) to be conflicting and unbelievable and the same are, therefore, rejected.

Justice Khosa ruled, “Respondent No. 1 namely Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan/Member of the National Assembly has not been honest to the nation, to the representatives of the nation in the National Assembly and to this court in the matter of explaining possession and acquisition of the relevant properties in London. As a consequence of the declaration issued regarding lack of honesty on the part of respondent No. 1 the said respondent has become disqualified from being a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) in terms of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution and section 99(1)(f) of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 and, therefore, he is liable to be denotified by the Election Commission of Pakistan as a member of the National Assembly forthwith with a consequence that he ceases to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan from the date of denotification”.

He also ruled, “The President of Pakistan is required to take necessary steps under the Constitution to ensure continuation of the democratic process through parliamentary system of government in the country”.

Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa directed to the National Accountability Bureau to proceed against Nawaz Sharif and any other person connected with him in respect of the offence of corruption and corrupt practices under section 9(a)(v) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.”

“The National Accountability Bureau is also directed to probe into the other assets acquired and businesses set up by Nawaz Sharif’s children in Pakistan and abroad to find out whether Nawaz Sharif’s children have acted as Benamidars of him in those assets and businesses or not and if so whether he can satisfactorily account for those assets and businesses or not if he is discovered to be their actual owner,” Justice Khosa wrote in the verdict.

Justice Khosa while issuing directives to the Chairman NAB Qamar Zaman Chauhdry ruled, “As neutrality and impartiality of the incumbent chairman NAB has been found by me to be compromised in the matters of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, therefore, he is directed not to exercise any power, authority or function in respect of the matters directed above”.

Requesting the Chief Justice of Pakistan to form an Implementation Bench of the apex court in the interest of doing complete justice, Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa said that all the powers, authority and functions of the chairman NAB in matters of Nawaz Sharif shall henceforth be exercised by the Implementation Bench and the relevant officials of the NAB shall seek all the necessary orders in those matters from the Implementation Bench till Qamar Zaman Chaudhry completes his current non-extendable term of office.

Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa also issued directives to the NAB to proceed against Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in connection with its Hudaibiya Paper Mills money laundering reference of 2000 wherein Dar was not an accused person when the said reference was quashed by the Lahore High Court, Lahore, and reinvestigation against the accused persons therein was barred because after quashing of that Reference against the accused persons therein and after setting aside Dar’s confessional statement, his status in that reference stood revived as an accused person against whom no reference had been quashed and reinvestigation against him was never ordered to be barred.

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