SC dismisses Hussain Nawaz's reservations regarding JIT members

Updated May 29, 2017

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The SC rejected an application filed by the prime minister's son seeking the removal of two members of the JIT. —INP
The SC rejected an application filed by the prime minister's son seeking the removal of two members of the JIT. —INP

A three-member special bench of the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the reservations raised by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son, Hussain Nawaz, regarding two members of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed to probe the Panama Papers case as per the apex court’s instructions.

In an application filed to the SC, Hussain had raised objections against Bilal Rasool of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and Amer Aziz of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

He had expressed apprehensions that the presence of these officers may affect the fairness and impartiality of the JIT and its findings.

In his application, Hussain alleged that Rasool is a nephew of Mian Mohammad Azhar, whose family are ardent Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) supporters.

Hussain also objected to the inclusion of Aziz, who was also part of a National Accountability Bureau investigation which was carried out into the Hudabiya Paper Mills scam under former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s regime.

During Monday's hearing, Hussain's newly-engaged counsel, Khawaja Haris, alleged before the bench that the behaviour of the two members of the JIT had also been "abusive".

However, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, who headed the three-judge bench, dismissed the accusation and ordered the JIT to continue with its proceedings and operate within its jurisdiction.

Another judge observed that the two members of the JIT who had been '"targeted" by Hussain in his application were experts in white-collar crime.

"We will not change any members of the JIT, nor will we prevent someone from doing their work," he remarked, drawing attention to the fact that a special bench of the Supreme Court had appointed the members of the JIT.

"Whether it is the prime minister or an ordinary citizen, nobody is above the law," the judge added.

During proceedings at the apex court, the Federal Investigation Agency's (FIA) Additional Director General Wajid Zia, who heads the JIT, told the bench that Qatari royal Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani had not yet appeared before the JIT.

Two letters signed by the Qatari royal had been presented before the SC by representatives of the prime minister's children's during the Supreme Court's hearing of the Panamagate case.

Justice Afzal remarked on Monday that if the Qatari royal did not appear before the JIT, his letter would be thrown out.

The court was also told that three people summoned by the JIT had failed to appear for a questioning. In response, the court ordered National Bank of Pakistan chief Saeed Ahmed, one of the absentees, to appear before the JIT on Tuesday or non-bailable arrest warrants would be issued against him.

Hussain Nawaz to appear before JIT once again on Tuesday

The JIT has issued another summons, dated May 28 (Sunday), directing Hussain Nawaz to appear before the team again on Tuesday along with all relevant records, documents and material for the recording of his statement and an examination by the JIT.

The notice mentions that Hussain had appeared before the JIT on Sunday, May 28 and refused to answer any question put forth by the JIT on the pretext that the JIT's status was 'sub judice' as Hussain had filed a petition before the apex court regarding two of its constituents.

The notice also says that Hussain's failure to comply will entail "personal consequences".

On Sunday, the JIT had grilled Hussain Nawaz for about two-and-a-half hours at the Federal Judicial Academy (FJA).

Sources said the investigation team questioned Hussain Nawaz with regards to his ownership of the London flats.

They said the JIT also asked him why he kept changing his stance over the source of income for those properties in interviews telecast by different television channels, including the BBC in 1999, where he said he was a student and could not own any property, and was rather living in rented premises.