Maryam slams ‘hidden hands’ behind probe

Updated 06 Jul 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The prime minister’s daughter decla­red on Wednesday that Nawaz Sharif was the only politician who could stand for civilian supremacy and the rule of law in the country, joining the chorus of ruling party leaders who have been decrying the involvement of ‘hidden hands’ in the accountability process instituted against her family.

Maryam Nawaz Sharif, who appeared before the joint investigation team probing money laundering allegations against the family of the prime minister, also challenged the JIT’s jurisdiction to examine the personal businesses of the Sharif family.

She is the eighth member of her family who has appeared before the JIT during the course of its two-month probe.

Ms Sharif arrived at the Federal Judicial Academy (FJA) along with her brothers, Hussain and Hassan Nawaz. Her husband, retired Captain Mohammad Safdar, son-in-law Raheel Munir and State Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb also accompanied her.

Local PML-N leaders and a large contingent of members from the party’s women wing also showed their strength by congregating around the FJA. Police, however, did not let anyone except Ms Sharif’s relatives and the information minister inside the FJA premises.

The activists had installed a sound system on the Service Road (South) of Sector I-8, which is adjacent to the JIT premises, and played party anthems to welcome the PM’s daughter.

JIT members return from UAE; NAB chairman also questioned

The local leadership had also arranged lunch for party workers and supporters, who were brought in from all parts of Punjab, and even served them ice cream for dessert. The party workers, however, dumped all their trash on the roadside and left a mess for the Metropolitan Corporation of Islamabad to clean up.

Ms Sharif was inside the FJA for a couple of hours and spoke to the media on her way out.

In her 18-minute speech, the PM’s daughter looked stately and spoke with conviction on issues related to the JIT, the alleged conspiracies being hatched against the PML-N and civilian sup­remacy in the government.

She took aim at former military ruler Pervez Musharraf and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, who she said had “avoided” the courts on one pretext or another.

“If someone thinks we had no option but to face the JIT, I must tell you that we could have taken refuge behind immunity and legal exemptions,” she said, adding that she could have diverted her car towards a hospital for treatment of backache, or could have hidden out in an official rest house in Nathia Gali — a reference to the way both men had avoided going to court in cases instituted against them.

She warned those who were “hatching conspiracies against her father”, saying that they should not push the prime minister to expose their machinations before the people of Pakistan.

“The conspirators know that Nawaz Sharif is a real patriot and will bear these conspiracies for the sake of country and will not expose them,” she said, adding: “[Such elements] should know that the people of Pakistan are the source of the prime minister’s strength”.

She said it was ironic that those agitating against the Sharif family’s offshore companies also owned their own offshore companies. “Since these companies are not included in the Panama Papers leaks, they are legitimate,” she observed, sarcastically.

The Panama Papers named over 400 Pakistani companies, but the JIT was only going after a single family, she lamented.

Ms Sharif said that after answering the JIT’s questions, she had asked investigators about the nature of offence for which they were being investigated, but did not get an answer.

“This is a unique JIT, which has first begun an investigation and is now in search of an allegation to charge us with,” she claimed.

She said that ‘conspirators’ had tried to drag her into controversy to put prime minister “under pressure”. “The Panama Papers were not the first conspiracy; earlier, I have been implicated in the ‘Dawn leaks’ controversy,” she said.

However, her parting shot left many wondering whether this was Pakistan’s first glimpse of a new face on the political scene: “I will prove myself to be my father’s strength, not his weakness.”

Gulf connection

Asif Kirmani, the prime minister’s special assistant, once again urged the JIT to record the statement of Qatari prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani.

Speaking to the media outside the JIT’s secretariat, Mr Kirmani said JIT members seemed to have flown by business class to Dubai on “a pleasure trip”, that too on taxpayer money.

The two JIT members, who flew to the UAE from Islamabad in connection with their official assignments, returned to the capital early on Wednesday morning.

Sources said that Irfan Naeem Mangi of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and retired Brig Kamran Khurshid of Military Intelligence returned to Islamabad by an Emirates flight.

There were rumours the two men had flown to Doha to interview the former Qatari prime minister. But sources said that the Pakistan embassy in Doha had not been intimated about any such visit.

NAB chairman

Incumbent NAB chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry also appeared before the JIT on Wednesday. Investigators had summoned him at 2pm, but later changed his time to 4pm.

The team questioned him in connection with the closure of the Hudaibya Paper Mills case file since it was during his tenure that the bureau’s prosecutor general had opined against appealing the Lahore High Court order directing NAB to quash the reference.

Mohammad Asghar also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2017