Former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on Thursday said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's May 16, 2016 speech in parliament was his 'confession' regarding the Panama Papers.
Chaudhry said this during an interview on Aaj TV's talk show 'Islamabad Tonight'.
When asked if the parliament's proceedings could be debated in court, he said, "That speech did not talk about the legislation or other government matters, it was a speech about his personal matters and is therefore admissible in court."
“We need to keep in mind that neither Article 66 nor any other article of the Constitution gives him [the prime minister] absolute immunity, it is conditional.”
"He [PM Sharif] did not go to the assembly to attend to the order of the day, he went especially to deliver that speech, which was pre-written. He then delivered that speech in the assembly to clarify his own position,” the former chief justice added.
"He wanted to clarify what his resources are, he did not say in that speech that he is innocent or his family is innocent ... this is then his admission."
Also read: PM's speech a 'confession', says JI counsel
Following the revelations made in the Panama Papers and mounting pressure from opposition parties, the prime minister in May last year had presented an overview of his family business on the floor of the National Assembly.
The speech, however, became controversial when the lawyer of the prime minister asked the apex court to set aside its contents during its ongoing deliberations on the Panamagate case.
PM's appearance in court
When asked if the PM should appear in front of court, Chaudhry replied saying, “Now that he had made such admissions [about his property] he should take the higher moral ground.”
“He should have appeared in front of parliament as he is also an MNA and [he should have] presented his own tax returns and other records,” he added.
“He should have said that there is an on-going case in the Supreme Court about my finances and these are the details that prove my innocence. But nobody does that in this country," he concluded.
Members of the National Assembly and Articles 62 and 63
When asked if Article 62 and 63 would apply to an MNA who lies about his means of income or is unable to provide details of his sources of income, Chaudhry said, "We need to look at 62 and 62 separately first, 62 deals with what the qualifications for a member of the national assembly are; 63 deals with the disqualification of someone who wishes to become part of the National Assembly and also someone who is already a part of the assembly.”
“The qualities of qualification and disqualification of members are interchangeable. Even if one becomes member of the assembly and then it comes to light that they were not fit to be a part of the parliament, then both Article 62 and 63 would apply on them,” he added.
"A reference of impeachment can then be filed with the Speaker of the National Assembly, saying that the member lied and they are not ‘Saadiq’ and ‘Ameen’ so they should be disqualified. The speaker would then forward this reference of impeachment to the Election Commission of Pakistan,” he explained.
The current case and Article 62 and 63
Talking about the current case, he explained, “However, in this particular case, under Article 184/3, the Supreme Court needs to give a declaration that this person is not ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’ and after that they [the petitioners] will send a reference to the Election Commission seeking a disqualification verdict."
“Article 62-1 (f) of the Constitution holds a declaration that says that 'this person is not Sadiq and Ameen' which is enough for disqualification,” Chaudhry explained.
Burden of proof
When asked on whom the burden of truth fell in the ongoing case, Chaudhry replied saying, "This case involves the prime minister of the country, and you must have heard the saying 'the wife of the Caesar must be above the crowd'. In a similar manner, even if there is a shadow of a doubt on the premier the burden of proof falls on him."
"Under 184/3, the job of the petitioner is to provide the information, which has been done and they have provided evidence to the best of their abilities and discharged their burden. The rest falls on the prime minister now. If he is truthful, he has nothing to be afraid of," he added.
The Sharif family's 'gifts' and 'innocent mistakes'
When asked about all the gifts that have circulated within the Sharif family, Iftikhar Chaudhry said that he would not give his final opinion on the matter as the point was mentioned in court proceedings on Thursday.
"But in my private opinion, these are all lame excuses. There is no transparency in this; these gifts are just ways to evade tax."
About the ‘innocent mistakes' made by the Prime Minister, like 'forgetting' to mention the Qatari prince in his National Assembly speech or the fact that Maryam's name was put into the dependent's column only because the correct column was not present on the papers, Iftikhar Chaudhry said, “There is a process called 'the sifting of evidence’ in which the court looks at everything — from the speeches that the PM and his children have consciously given on record to the papers presented ... so they cannot say [for long] that they did not know what they were doing.”