ISLAMABAD: Pointing out the inconsistencies in the different replies submitted by the prime minister’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said that the real issue in the case was not foreign properties, but honesty.

“The court is only interested in the honesty aspect and not in the properties, since these things have their own bearing on the fate of the case,” observed Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who heads the five-judge Supreme Court bench hearing the Panamagate case.

“The impression I am getting is that improvements are being made as the case progresses,” observed Justice Ijazul Ahsan, referring to at least four concise submissions made before the court on behalf of Ms Maryam at different stages.

The judges pointed out to Advocate Shahid Hamid, who represents Maryam Nawaz Sharif, that in one of her replies, she had claimed she was a trustee of her brother Hussain Nawaz in relation to the property that belonged to Nescoll Ltd, while the trust deed between her and Mr Hussain also mentioned the other company, Nielson Enterprises Ltd.

In a different reply, it was claimed that Hussain Nawaz lived abroad and had no national tax number (NTN), but later his NTN was furnished before the court in a subsequent statement to explain how he had sent a hefty amount of gifts to his father — the prime minister — over four years.

“Don’t you see you are inconsistent in what you are saying?” Justice Ahsan wondered, but the counsel replied that it appeared to be a clerical omission.

“Is there any change in the subsequent replies?” asked Justice Khosa, “and will this error be rectified subsequently or is it being orally corrected today?”

Justice Gulzar Ahmed also reminded the counsel that these replies had been filed by the respondent, but were at variance with the existing documents.

At one point, Justice Khosa also pointed out that the first concise statement of Nov 7, 2016, filed by Maryam, did not mention the Nov 5, 2016, Qatari letter, which explained how ownership of the properties was handed over to Hussain Nawaz.

On Wednesday, Shahid Hamid also claimed that Maryam’s signatures on one of the documents submitted by the PTI — claiming that she was the beneficial owner of Nescoll — had been forged since there were tremors apparent in the flow of the signature attributed to Maryam, suggesting that someone else had signed it and not his client.

To substantiate his point, the counsel brandished magnifying glasses, saying that while he did not want to create an unnecessary drama in the courtroom, it was necessary to examine the signatures. Justice Khosa, however, said that holding a magnifying glass reminded him of Sherlock Holmes — a fictional private detective.

Justice Khosa also pointed out that there was a history to this claim — the veracity of the signatures on the tripartite agreement over the sale of Gulf Steel by Tariq Shafi, a relative of the Sharifs — was also challenged. “It seems that this is a family that signs on each other’s behalf,” the judge observed.

Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, however, said that the judges had not received any training in the science of handwriting, adding that it was the duty of the petitioners to show that the documents submitted came from the proper custodian. Otherwise, these documents are worthless in the eyes of the Qanoon-i-Shahadat (law of evidence).

“This is the tragedy; petitioners are filing documents without identifying their source,” Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed regretted.

“This amounts to reckless disregard, which amounts to knowingly filing forged documents,” argued the counsel, prompting Justice Ahsan to ask whether he was denying the veracity of documents that had come from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Referring to the correspondence between the Financial Investigation Agency of the British Virgin Islands and Mossack Fonseca Money Laundering Reporting Officer Ms J Nizbeth Maduro, the counsel asked why the law firm needed to write to Minerva if they already had the letter showing Maryam was a shareholder in these companies.

Maryam’s interview by Sana Bucha, where she had stated that neither she nor her brothers owned any properties outside or inside Pakistan and that she lived with her father, also came up. In her reply before the court, Maryam has stated that she lives in a house inside Shamim Agri Farms.

Her counsel argued that the interview was not pre-planned and whatever she had said was stated on the spur of the moment, adding that she actually meant to say that she owned no house.

“There is a clear difference between a house and a property,” Justice Ahsan observed, while Justice Ahmed described such inconsistencies as “irritants”.

The counsel suggested that the video clip should be shown in court, but Justice Khosa observed again that the court had raised a query, which he could address at any stage. Instead of poking holes in the case of the petitioner, the counsel should be presenting his own case, he observed.

The counsel argued that it was not his case that Imran Khan had forged the documents, rather he had displayed reckless disregard in submitting unverified documents before the court and failed to do their duty.

“Are you expecting us to go back to Panama and get the document verified?” Justice Ahsan asked, point-blank.

Justice Saeed, however, asked the counsel and other lawyers to answer the court’s queries to establish the fact that Maryam was not the beneficial owner, but a trustee; and that Hussain was the real owner of the two companies.

The court also asked Makhdoom Ali Khan, who represents the prime minister, to submit the settlement of his family inheritance after the 2004 demise of his father, Mian Sharif.

Published in Dawn January 26th, 2017


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