ISLAMABAD: The Senate witnessed on Thursday a heated debate between the opposition and treasury benches on the report submitted recently by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and members of his family.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan said that under the law, if a prime minister failed to justify his assets the law was to take its course. He said that in cases of forgery, its beneficiary was accountable.

The PPP leader said that under Section 193 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the forgery in cases involving judicial proceedings carried a punishment up to seven years.

He cited a judgement given by former chief justice Afzal Zullah in 1992, according to which it makes no difference if evidence is collected through wrong means.

Two volumes consumed on a case quashed by a high court, minister tells Senate

Farhatullah Babar of the Pakistan Peoples Party demanded the prime minister’s resignation, but also criticised the ISPR for its tweet that claimed ‘to stand by the side of law and justice and against corruption’.

“While I demand the prime minister’s resignation, I cannot endorse ISPR’s lecture on law and justice. One wishes that when General Pervez Musharraf fled the court and sought shelter in a Rawalpindi hospital, the ISPR had then stood by the side of law and justice,” he said.

Mr Babar said there was no tweet from the ISPR denouncing corruption when the issue of a scam in the DHA Lahore was raised in this house on Wednesday.

He said standing by the rule of law only selectively was a mockery of the rule of law and justice.

He said that after the prime minister had been accused of perjury and filing false documents there was no option for him but to step aside and let the law take its course.

The PPP leader said it would be wrong to say that the prime minister’s resignation would pose a threat to democracy.

Former ministers Pervez Rasheed and Mushahidullah Khan criticised the JIT and referred to hiring of services of a London-based litigation firm owned by JIT’s head Wajid Zia to secure certain documents under mutual legal assistance against a hefty payment of 49,000 pounds.

Winding up the discussion, Law Minister Zahid Hamid said there was no question of the prime minister stepping down, adding that the basis for resignation’s demand was the JIT report which could not be relied upon.

He read out the order of the Supreme Court giving direction to the JIT for collecting evidence against respondent No. 1 (Nawaz Sharif) and said the JIT had exceeded its mandate.

“They have gone so far. Hudaibiya Paper Mill and Chaudhry Sugar Mill have no nexus with the order,” the minister remarked and termed the entire process mala fide.

He said the JIT shared no documents with the respondent to provide him an opportunity for giving an explanation and rebuttal. He said most of the documents and statements were inadmissible as the same had been illegally collected. He said the mutual legal assistance was meant to procure documents from governments, and not from private firms.

Mr Hamid said the JIT assumed the role of a court and gave findings on the 13 questions given by the Supreme Court. No incriminating evidence had been framed against the prime minister, he added.

The minister said two volumes had been prepared on a case quashed by a high court. He said Ishaq Dar had been accused of evading taxes even though he provided to the JIT the statements sought by it two days prior to the submission of its report to the Supreme Court.

Before reading out the prorogation order, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani said the country’s salvation lay in democracy, democratic system and rule of law, which would be protected at all costs.

He made it clear that if an attempt was made to cause harm to parliament, he would be on the forefront for its protection.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2017

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