Nawaz Sharif is set to become the first sitting prime minister to appear before any investigating agency, when he appears before the joint investigation team (JIT), constituted to probe money-laundering allegations against his family, on Thursday.
The unprecedented development will make him the first incumbent to appear before such a panel, let alone one probing allegations of financial irregularities or fraud against nearly his entire family, going back three generations.
The summons was issued by the JIT on June 8, 2017 and asked the PM “to appear and associate with the JIT on Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 1100 hours, at the office of the JIT, Federal Judicial Academy, Service Road South, Sector H-8/4, Islamabad”.
The JIT’s summons also reminded the PM to “kindly bring along relevant record/documents/material” related to the Panama Papers case. This will entail nearly all the documents and evidence submitted before the Supreme Court by the PM’s counsel, Makhdoom Ali Khan.
Sources said that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar may also be questioned by the team before the PM’s appearance.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s statement may be recorded before premier’s appearance
In its judgement of April 20 in the Panama Papers case, the Supreme Court had constituted a JIT and empowered it to summon the prime minister, his sons and any other person necessary, to investigate allegations of money-laundering, through which the four apartments in London’s Park Lane area were purchased.
The sources said that the JIT had summoned Dar last week, but could not record his statement.
Insiders said the six-member investigation team, headed by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) additional director general Wajid Zia, has issued another summons to Dar.
Talking to some TV channels on Sunday, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Heritage Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the PM had received the JIT summons and in pursuance of the Supreme Court’s order of April 20, he would ensure his presence accordingly.
The JIT has so far called about a dozen witnesses, including a number of people who Dar named in his “forced” confession, recorded by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in 2000. Though Dar has disowned the statement, saying it was recorded under duress, the JIT has taken it seriously and summoned some of the people Dar allegedly used for money-laundering. These individuals included National Bank of Pakistan president Saeed Ahmed and Kashif Mehmood Qazi, a British citizen.
While Qazi refused to appear before the team for fear of his life, Ahmed recently recorded a statement before the JIT. The NBP president, however, complained about the JIT’s ‘indifferent’ behavior and said that he was kept waiting for hours while he was fasting, and that the JIT treated him as an offender.
Besides Ahmed, Tariq Shafi, a cousin of PM Sharif; and Javed Kayani, a friend of the Sharif family, have also complained that the JIT tried to force them to testify against the PM and his sons Hussain and Hassan Nawaz.
Hussain Nawaz had also filed the petition before the Supreme Court, challenging the presence of two JIT members — Bilal Rasool of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and Amer Aziz of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) — objecting to their presence. The apex court, however, dismissed his petition as being “premature”.
But the bench will take up on Monday (today) another petition, filed by the PM’s elder son, seeking the constitution of a commission to investigate the leak of his photograph.
The sources say the JIT has prepared an inquiry report on the Hussain Nawaz photo leak, which will be submitted before the court’s three-member bench on Monday.
The bench will also take up an application, filed by the JIT, where investigators have highlighted certain issues and problems they are facing in concluding the probe within the stipulated two-month timeframe.
Before this, only prime ministers Yousuf Raza Gillani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf have ever been summoned by a judicial forum, i.e. the Supreme Court. Ashraf was a respondent in the rental power case before NAB, but never personally appeared before investigators while in office.
PPP terms it a positive development
Punjab PPP President Qamar Zaman Kaira, in a press statement, said that the summoning of the PM before the JIT is a positive sign.
"The prime minister has a central role in the Panama case," Kaira noted from Lahore.
"The JIT is going to ask important questions from the PM."
Expressing concern regarding the hearing, the PPP Punjab president said, "I hope that this time nothing similar to what the PML-N did with the Supreme Court (SC) in the past will happen again."
"We expect that the PML-N will not resort to any extreme tactics during the JIT hearing. The last time Nawaz Sharif presented himself to the Supreme Court it [the court] was attacked," Kaira noted.
Explore: JIT informs SC of ‘hurdles in work’
"No one should think of making provocations. If you are truthful then present yourself in earnest to the JIT."
Expressing his dismay at the recent spike in outbursts against the investigators, Kaira added that people should refrain from subjecting the team to abuses.
"Some individuals from the PML-N are humiliating institutions; they should refrain from using such language," the PPP stalwart added.
'Critical that PM Sharif resign'
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan has asked Nawaz Sharif to resign after the JIT issued a summon the PM.
In a series of tweets posted on Sunday night, Khan congratulated the country over the investigating team's decision to call the prime minister to appear before them.
"Congratulations to the nation as for the first time a serving PM [has been] brought under Rule of Law and summoned before JIT," Khan tweeted.
In a subsequent tweet, the PTI chairman demanded that Sharif resigns until the investigation proceedings are completed.
"Critical that PM Sharif resign while the investigation is ongoing because the organisation represented in the JIT are subordinate to the PM. Major contradiction."
This is not the first time since the Supreme Court's split decision on the Panama case that Khan has asked the prime minister to resign.
In the moments after the SC's verdict, Khan urged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign for the duration of an investigation into how the Sharif family's money was transferred to Qatar.
"I demand Nawaz Sharif resign... Until the JIT completes its probe," Khan had said.
"If you're cleared within 60 days, you can return."