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Govt continues attempts to discredit JIT report

Updated July 16, 2017

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: There is no law that compels a son to be accountable for his father’s deeds, government ministers defending the ruling Sharif family declared on Saturday.

Declaring the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report on Panamagate ‘flawed’ and a ‘pack of lies’, the government claimed former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani had sent the Sharif family’s complete money trail and all related documents, which were presented before the JIT, but the investigation team did not make contact with the Qatari government to verify the documents.

“The conclusion of the report’s fourth volume, which deals with the Mayfair flats, says that the prime minister is the ‘most likely’ owner of the flats,” MNA Daniyal Aziz said at a press conference held at the Press Information Department (PID).

Flanked by Minister for Capital Administration and Development (CADD) Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, he read from the volume’s conclusion: “The ‘true’ owner of Mayfair apartments at the time of the Al-Towfeek case in early 1999 were members of the Sharif family, which included ‘most likely’ Respondent No 1 (Nawaz Sharif).”

He said that the prime minister was declared its owner simply on the basis that he usually stayed there whenever he visited London. “Is this the evidence and proof collected by the JIT on the basis of which the prime minister is being targeted?” the MNA asked.

Regarding the allegation that PM Sharif had accumulated assets beyond his known sources of income, he said the report was quite vague. He then showed reporters sections of the report in a Powerpoint presentation.

Mr Aziz said former chief justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali had directed the applicants in the Panama Papers case to avoid other stories and talk about the Mayfair flats.

Similarly, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had observed ‘do not go beyond five years, otherwise a Pandora’s box will be opened’.

“However, the Sharif family was held accountable for its businesses going as far back as 1960,” he said. He said in some places, it said, the report was complete, while in other places it was mentioned that the report was still under progress.

The MNA claimed that the JIT was still occupying Federal Judicial Academy (FJA) even though it had finalised its report and presented it to the Supreme Court. “We are surprised at what the JIT is doing now, in the highly-secured judicial academy, if it has completed its job. Is it filling in gaps?” he asked.

He said the JIT had corresponded with six to seven different countries, but did not make any such attempt to collect evidence from the Qatari government. “The Qatari royal has all details regarding transactions with the Sharif family and we presented it before the JIT, but the JIT did not verify these documents,” the MNA said.

CADD Minister Tariq Fazal Chaudhry noted that there was no law in the country that made a son accountable for his father’s deeds.

Responding to a question, he said the government would challenge the JIT report in the Supreme Court since it was based on assumptions. “We will challenge each and every aspect of the report as more than three dozen loopholes have been found by our legal team,” he added.

He again denied the claim that PM Sharif was drawing a salary from a Dubai-based company even after coming into power. When asked about SECP Chairman Zafar Hijazi and State Bank of Pakistan Deputy Governor Saeed Ahmed, who were found to be involved in tampering with Sharif family’s business records, the minister said strict action was being taken against them.

‘Conspiracy against CPEC’

Maulana Fazalur Rahman, a key government ally who has already called on the prime minster not to step down, reiterated this viewpoint on Saturday when asked to comment on the recent political crisis that had emerged in the wake of the JIT report.

“I consider myself a political worker who has witnessed several phases of Pakistan’s political history,” he said, adding that he and his party made decisions after analysing the situation in its true spirit.

“Time will prove me right when I say that the current situation is a conspiracy against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). I call on the PPP and Khursheed Shah to review their demand. How can it be that the forces that stood for a strong democracy should now stand with anti-democratic powers?”

The JUI-F chief was speaking to reporters in Karachi after meeting with Shah Awais Noorani, who heads his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP). The two men hinted at the possibility of forming an electoral alliance of religious parties for the next general elections, saying that this would protect right-wing votes from being divided.

“For this purpose, we are in contact with all those parties that were part of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal.”

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2017