A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday received a report submitted by the joint investigation team (JIT) probing allegations of money laundering against the Sharif family, and ordered the opening of a criminal case against Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan Chairman Zafar Hijazi who was earlier suspected of record tampering by the Federal Investigation Agency.
The bench, comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Ejaz Afzal, after examination of the report, ordered the registration of a case against Hijazi in order to find out who was behind the tampering of Sharif family business records.
Justices Saeed, Afzal and Ahsan are the three judges who had exercised restraint in their judgment on the Panamagate case, saying that the Sharif family ought to be given an opportunity to substantiate the sources of their wealth. Justices Asif Saeed Khosa and Gulzar Ahmed had issued the dissenting notes in the judgement, saying the prime minister ought to be disqualified as he could not be considered 'honest' and 'trustworthy'.
The court also asked for the transcripts of all speeches made in the last 60 days by PML-N's Talal Chaudhry, Railways Minister Saad Rafique, and the PM's Special Assistant on Political Affairs Asif Kirmani, presumably to examine them for contemptuous content.
The bench further ordered that the name and institution of the individual responsible for leaking a photo of Hussain Nawaz sitting before the JIT should be made public. The matter does not fall within the SC's jurisdiction, so the government may form a commission to probe the matter, the court said.
The bench also took a strict stand against a local newspaper for publishing a story it said contradicted actual JIT proceedings over the past 60 days.
The SC ordered the filing of a contempt of court notice against the printer, publisher and reporter of The News for a story entitled "Panama JIT ‘doesn’t find PM guilty,’ but his sons", which appeared in on Monday, July 10.
Earlier, members of the JIT had arrived at the apex court amid tight security provided by Islamabad Capital Territory Police. Large cardboard boxes labelled 'Evidence' were carted into the SC as the JIT made their way into court.
The Panamagate case has been adjourned for a week, with the next hearing scheduled for July 17.
JIT report 'stillborn': PML-N
PML-N Spokesperson Daniyal Aziz, while commenting on the JIT report, said that although the party would read the report, it believed it was "dead on arrival".
"It is still-born," he said of the JIT report.
"The PTI should have taken a look at the actual documents before commenting on it," he added.
"Wajid Zia said that the 10th volume of the report should be kept secret because it contains the legal section. Why are they afraid to share this section with the country?" he asked.
"We demand that Volume 10 should be released publicly, and video recordings are shared so that 10 years down the road, there is not another Raymond Davis who writes a book and tells us what Volume 10 contains," he added.
The JIT report is spread over 10 volumes, the last of which deals with matters of international jurisdiction.
Aziz maintained the PML-N believes that the statement of Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, the former Qatari premier, should also be part of the evidence.
'Democracy will strengthen with accountability'
Jamaat-i-Islami's Sirajul Haq, reacting to the news, claimed that it had been "proved again" that the government is pressuring the JIT and courts.
"But we are sure they will fail. We feel that the whole system is being tampered with. Institutions have been crippled," he claimed.
"For the oppressed and helpless people, a powerful judicial system is important," he added.
"People now want to see an independent judiciary and institutions. Democracy will not weaken, but become stronger due to accountability. We stand with democracy and Constitution."
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry expressed hope that the SC verdict would be upheld. While calling for an end to "this mudslinging competition", the PTI leader called for a separate case of perjury to be registered against the SECP chairman who, he said, should also give up the names of the people who made him perjure himself.
"It is better that Hijazi names the people who told him to submit false records. And we are sure none other than Ishaq Dar is behind it," Chaudhry alleged.
"I believe that Abid Sher Ali and Daniyal Aziz's transcripts should also be examined by the SC," the PTI leader added.
The JIT report
The JIT report consists of statements recorded by PM Nawaz; Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif; the PM’s children Hussain, Hassan and Maryam Nawaz Sharif; son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar; PM’s cousin Tariq Shafi; friend Javed Kayani and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who is the father-in-law of the PM’s younger daughter, among other evidence.
The case hinges on two parallel money trails for the Sharif family's apartments in London's upscale Park Lane neighbourhood: one based on the Rehman Malik investigation, and the other provided by Hussain Nawaz to the apex court.
The Rehman Malik investigation of 1998 connected the purchase of the London properties with alleged money laundering.
Malik said that he had, during his time as an FIA official, compiled a report about decades ago on alleged money laundering by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members.
The second money trail ─ a ‘forced confession’ of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case ─ is also being used to establish a case against the Sharif family.
Dar had claimed after his appearance at the JIT's headquarters at the Federal Judicial Academy last month that the statement submitted before a magistrate on April 25, 2000 was not 'written by his hand'.
The statement had alleged that Sharif brothers used the Hudaibiya Paper Mills as a cover for money laundering during the late 1990s.
This was why the JIT summoned almost all important characters named in both the Rehman Malik report and Dar’s ‘confession’.
The JIT did not record the statement of former Qatari premier Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, who submitted two letters to the SC during the Panamagate case, which sought to explain the Sharif family's businesses in Qatar.
Therefore, it is being assumed that the JIT will not consider the money trail provided by Hussain Nawaz, who was summoned by the JIT six times and examined for around 30 hours in all.
The leadership of the ruling PML-N is visibly unhappy with this development, and makes no secret of its disdain for the report.
Top PML-N leaders had made it clear during a press conference last week that the ruling party would not accept the findings of the JIT if the statements of the former Qatari prime minister were not made part of the report.
The Panamagate case
The Panama Papers leaks came to light in April last year after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca available to the public.
The documents contained confidential attorney-client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities.
Eight offshore companies were reported to have links with the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
In the aftermath of leaks, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan levelled allegations of corruption against the prime minister. Khan called for Nawaz Sharif to step down as PM or to present himself for accountability.
In October, Khan announced his plans to ‘lockdown’ Islamabad, calling on agitators to paralyse the capital until the PM gave into his demands for resignation or accountability.
As tensions in the capital came to a head on November 2 – the proposed date of the lockdown ─ the Supreme Court announced that it would start hearing the Panamagate case.
A full bench of the apex court began hearing the case on a daily basis this year, and announced a split verdict on April 20, which ordered the formation of a JIT to probe allegations of money laundering against the Sharif family.
The apex court ordered the JIT comprise members of the FIA, National Accountability Bureau, SECP, State Bank of Pakistan, Inter-Services Intelligence, and Military Intelligence.
An earlier version of this story erroneously said that Shahbaz Sharif's name was also linked to the offshore companies, the error is regretted.