ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday hinted that it might call Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to explain his position on the Panamagate case, if the need arose.
“The court will definitely call the prime minister if [necessary], or may consider deciding the case at hand on the available material, after listening to the stance of all parties [concerned],” observed Justice Asif Saeed Khosa. However, he was quick to add, that stage had not come.
Justice Khosa heads a five-judge bench hearing petitions seeking disqualification of the prime minister over the investments made in offshore companies by members of his family.
The observation came when Advocate Taufiq Asif, representing Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq, asked the court to summon the prime minister to record his statement and provide him an opportunity to clear his position on the serious allegations levelled against him.
Under the circumstances, the prime minister should come to court as before, in the 2011 Memogate case. The prime minister should remember that this court gave him the relief to come back to Pakistan by ending his exile, Advocate Asif recalled.
Maryam denies veracity of all documents from Panama Papers, except her passport and bank letter; furnishes explanation for trust deed between her and Hussain
“This Panamagate hearing has become the focus of the world and any declaration against the prime minister will only strengthen democracy,” the counsel argued, prompting Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed to ask, “Have you completed political speech?”
On Tuesday, the bench also de-linked the petition of Advocate Tariq Asad, as well as the JI’s first petition, both of which requested the apex court to constitute a judicial commission to investigate all those who had made investments in offshore companies.
Senior counsel Shahid Hamid, appearing on behalf of Maryam Nawaz, her husband retired Capt Mohammad Safdar and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, informed the court that PTI chief Imran Khan had not sought any relief against Maryam, but rather had levelled an allegation. In Sheikh Rashid’s petition, he noted, his client was not even named as respondent.
“Maybe it is because Maryam doesn’t hold any public office,” Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan observed.
“Or maybe, they are looking for an advance disqualification of my client,” retorted Advocate Hamid.
“So your job is done; you are not required to answer petitions where your clients are not a party,” Justice Khosa observed and said that Mr Khan might have thought it proper to include her as a necessary party because she was linked to the prime minister, against whom the allegations had been made.
Disputing the claims made in different talk shows and media statements that the prime minister’s family had not filed documentary proof, Advocate Hamid listed all the pieces of evidence submitted on their behalf to the court.
“Why is this coming from you when it should have come from the horse’s mouth,” Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan observed and questioned whether a trust deed, executed between Hussain Nawaz and Maryam, conformed to the requirements of UK laws, meaning whether these had been registered or not.
The counsel, however, replied that they had sought an opinion from a law firm, which suggested there was no need for registration of any trust deed when there was certainty of intent.
At the outset, Shahid Hamid also read out a one-page statement on behalf of Maryam Nawaz Sharif, providing a timeline from her marriage to Capt Safdar in Dec 1992 and ending with his re-election to the National Assembly in May 2013.
Referring to the question of why her father had showered her with so many gifts, the statement attributed this to Nawaz Sharif’s love and affection. “He has been making these gifts with the full consent of her mother, brothers and sister, and her brothers have materially assisted the prime minister in fulfilling his wishes,” the statement said.
Maryam Nawaz also denied being her father’s dependant when he filed his nomination papers for the May 2013 elections. She also denied being the beneficial owner of the four London flats or having ever derived any income or profit or financial benefit from these properties.
In a separate statement, Maryam Nawaz also denied being the recipient or a participant in the correspondence between the Financial Investigation Agency of the British Virgin Islands and Mossack Fonseca Money Laundering Reporting Officer J Nizbeth Maduro, raising queries about Nescoll and Neilson.
Referring to the documents attached with the PTI petition and released by the German publication Süddeutsche Zeitung a day earlier, she maintained that the alleged internal emails and notes of different dates were all photocopies and were denied, except for the copy of her passport and the Samba Bank letter.
Similarly, she maintained that the personal information form furnished by PTI did not bear her signatures, nor did she recall ever having received this form.
Mossack Fonseca is a law firm and not a court of law and no letter of the firm could confer the title of properties on her, the statement said, adding that no one in the immediate or extended family of Hussain Nawaz had ever disputed his sole ownership of the London flats since he became their owner in Jan 2006.
Referring to the trust deed executed between her and her brother, she explained that Hussain Nawaz had two families from two wives of different nationalities, which included four children from one marriage and three from the other. Since these children were minors in 2005-06, she maintained that her brother was very concerned that in the event of his demise, someone should ensure the equitable distribution of his properties amongst the members of both families as per Sharia law.
In the last quarter of 2005, she learnt from Hussain that the Al-Thani family intended to transfer the shares of Nescoll and Nielson, which owned the four flats, to him as a settlement of the investments made by the late Mian Mohammad Sharif, adding that he was in touch with Minerva Financial Services Ltd to provide secretariat and related services for the two companies.
Hussain wanted to authorise her in relation to these properties so that in case of his demise, Maryam could ensure the distribution of the properties, the statement said.
Earlier, Sheikh Ahsanuddin, also appearing on behalf of the JI, referred to the definition of inquisition from Black’s Law Dictionary to establish that the Supreme Court enjoyed ‘inquisitorial’ jurisdiction.
Justice Saeed, however, reminded him that the definition had been derived from the Spanish Inquisition, where proceedings were conducted in secrecy, confessions were extracted through torture and people were convicted without being given a fair opportunity to defend themselves.
“Is the counsel inviting the court to follow that precedent?” the judge inquired.
Published in Dawn January 25th, 2017