ISLAMABAD: Following in the footsteps of Hussain Nawaz, National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) president Saeed Ahmad also submitted a complaint to the Supreme Court on June 5, accusing the joint investigation team (JIT) of insulting and mistreating him.
“I realise that I was there for a criminal investigation as a witness, but it seems I was being punished as a condemned person,” he said in a two-page letter addressed to the Supreme Court registrar.
In his application, Mr Ahmad explained he was at the Federal Judicial Academy (FJA) for a total of 12 hours, but the five-hour wait was very unnerving.
“I understand that the court has ruled that all those who appear in front of JIT should be treated with respect,” the application recalled, adding: “It is bad enough to have such a long wait on an ordinary day but such an experience during the month of Ramazan, it was very testing.”
While he did not discuss the nature of the questions and their relevance to the investigation due to reasons of confidentiality, Mr Ahmad said he wanted to bring the treatment he had received into the notice of the Supreme Court.
In his application, the NBP chief also tried to dispel the impression that he was reluctant to appear before the JIT.
Mr Ahmad explained that the summons requiring him to appear before the probe team on May 27, was received in his office the previous day.
SC to examine hurdles faced by investigators; foreign govts not being cooperative
The application said he was booked to fly from Karachi to Islamabad the same evening, but was unable to reach the airport in time due to roadwork on Sharea Faisal, the main artery. He said that when he asked the bank’s legal adviser to draft a letter to the JIT, informing them about his inability to attend, the legal adviser suggested that the bank must make efforts to search for all the accounts held at NBP for all related parties.
For this he requested the JIT to grant him more time. This was not taken kindly by the JIT, who brought the matter to the attention of the apex court. The attorney general’s office also conveyed the May 29 order of the court to him, Mr Ahmad said.
He said he was asked to come to the FJA at 11am and he reached well in time. However, he was made to wait nearly five hours before he was called in for the first of three interviews.
After initial questioning, Mr Ahmad was given a document to study and write his statement, and was called in again after another two hours, when he submitted his signed statement for the record.
“I was also asked to read it out which I did, after which we broke for Iftar. I had to wait for another two hours before I was called in for the last session, which finished around 10:30pm,” Mr Ahmad maintained.
Mr Ahmad becomes the third witness to complain of mistreatment at the hands of the JIT — both the prime minister’s elder son and his cousin Tariq Shafi had earlier complained of maltreatment.
Hussain’s counsel, Khawaja Haris Ahmed, also submitted an application requesting the constitution of a judicial commission under a Supreme Court judge to investigate who leaked his photo on social media.
Hussain has also alleged that the JIT has been pressurizing every witness that has appeared before it to change their statements, and had allegedly tried to implicate specific persons in wrongdoing under threat of arrest, prosecution and long-term incarceration.
Mr Shafi, in his complaint, alleged that he was made to sit for 13 hours before the interrogation team at a stretch, during which time one of the members continuously intimidated, browbeat and harassed him, while another threatened him to withdraw the affidavit he submitted in the Panama Papers case.
At the last hearing on June 7, the SC asked JIT team leader Wajid Zia to submit his grievances over hurdles the team was facing in its investigation to the bench. On that day, Zia did not divulge the nature of the obstructions the team was facing, nor did the apex court discuss it openly.
On Saturday, the reservations, impediments and perceived reluctance being faced by JIT members from different quarters were submitted before the SC registrar by a staff member of the JIT in a sealed envelope.
The reservations, along with the JIT’s response to Hussain’s application, are expected to be taken up by the court tomorrow (Monday).
Sources said that the investigators were mainly facing difficulties in collecting evidence from abroad to establish money-laundering charges against the prime minister and his children.
Insiders said that the JIT could seek assistance from the attorney general to obtain the relevant record from foreign governments in order to answer the 13 questions posed by the apex court in its April 20 judgement in the Panama Papers case.
The JIT had so far collected the evidence available with the Supreme Court, National Accountability Bureau, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, State Bank, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and other related departments, sources said.
However, it has yet to obtain records related to the Gulf Steel Mills from the UAE, records of the Al-Azizia Steel Mills from Saudi Arabia, details of real estate investments made by the father of PM Sharif and the record related to the sale and purchase of London properties and offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands.
According to expert investigators, foreign countries seldom cooperate with Pakistan and do not respond to most requests for mutual legal assistance.
A seasoned investigator said that the presence of a ‘mutual legal assistance treaty’ was necessary to get documents or evidence from the jurisdiction of other countries.
Recently, even Interpol has refused to execute warrants against high-profile figures. In February 2017, it refused to issue a red warrant against MQM founder Altaf Hussain, saying it does not intervene in political and religious matters of a state.
In 2012, Interpol rejected Pakistan’s request to execute arrest warrants against retired Gen Pervez Musharraf in the Benazir murder case, saying that it was a politically-motivated case.
According to an investigation officer, the assets reference against former president Asif Ali Zardari was the only high-profile case in which the UK and Swiss governments shared documents with Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2017