ISLAMABAD: Making a last attempt to invite the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to Qatar, Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani sent another letter asking the JIT to record his statement at his palace before submitting its final report to the Supreme Court.
Sources privy to the development said the Qatari prince had also asked for the names of the JIT members and date of their arrival for recording his statement.
The Supreme Court had on April 20 tasked the JIT with investigation into allegations of money laundering by the Sharif family. Ascertaining authenticity of the Qatari prince’s letters was also one of the tasks the apex court had directed the JIT to accomplish.
Seeks names of members and date of their arrival
During the hearing of petitions filed by opposition parties seeking disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the Qatari prince had submitted two letters to the apex court regarding the settlement of London properties with the Sharif family. The JIT had informed the court in May that it had asked Sheikh Hamad to record his statement in this regard.
The sources, however, said the JIT had offered the Qatari prince to either appear in person at its secretariat at the Federal Judicial Academy, Islamabad, or testify through video link from Pakistan’s embassy in Doha.
The JIT told him that it would not only verify the letters but would also go beyond. It reminded the Qatari prince that after submitting the letter to the apex court he had accepted the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and could not unilaterally withdraw the jurisdiction, the sources said.
According to them, the JIT also informed Sheikh Hamad that after recording the statement with the investigation team he might be summoned by a trial court if the Supreme Court sent a reference to the relevant forum which might be an accountability court.
While Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA Mohammad Tallal Chaudhry termed it a threat to the Qatari prince that he might be dragged into the matter in case he testified before the JIT, an expert in the field of investigation said the team could convey such consequences to a witness before recording his statement under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
He said that in the Unites States if a police officer did not inform the suspect that he was caught under certain offence which might entail certain punishment, the arrest became void.
However, he said the JIT could record the statement of the Qatari prince under Section 161 of CrPC at any place, including his residence or office.
The expert recalled that a member of the JIT investigating the Benazir Bhutto murder case had recorded the statement of American lobbyist Mark Seigel at his office in the US. However, when an antiterrorism court in Rawalpindi summoned him for recording his statement under Section 164 of CrPC, Mr Seigel went to the Pakistani embassy in the US where he testified through a video link.
It may be mentioned that the investigating officer had recorded the statement under Section 161 of CrPC and placed it before the trial court where the witness again testified under oath under Section 164 of CrPC.
At the moment, the JIT and the Qatari prince are reportedly disagreeing over the jurisdiction. The investigation team insists that he record the statement within the territorial jurisdiction of Pakistan, while Sheikh Hamad claims he is not subject to the jurisdiction, and has offered the JIT members to record his statement at his palace.
Prime minister’s special assistant Asif Kirmani has already linked the acceptability of the JIT report to the testimony of the Qatari prince. He said the report would be incomplete unless the JIT recorded the statement of key defence witness Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim.
Advocate Faisal Hussain, a counsel for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, is of the opinion that the JIT can summon the Qatari prince and its members are not bound to go to Qatar. “When the prime minister of Pakistan could appear before the JIT, why not the former PM of Qatar?” he asked.
But he said that in case the JIT did not record the statement of the Qatari prince at this stage, the PML-N leadership might produce him as a witness during the time of trial.
Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2017