The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday concluded the hearings in the Panamagate case and reserved its judgement. A date for the judgement has yet to be announced.
The court also opened Volume X of the joint investigation team's (JIT) report, which was earlier marked "confidential", providing a copy of the same to Nawaz Sharif's lawyer Khawaja Harris.
The Panamagate case is being heard by a three-member bench of the SC, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.
The JIT, tasked with investigating allegations of money laundering against the Sharif family, submitted its report to the SC on July 10. Volume X of the report, titled "Mutual Legal Assistance Requests ─ Ongoing", is related to JIT's international correspondence and the documents obtained from foreign countries during the investigation.
In their objections to the JIT report, filed before the SC earlier this week, the Sharif family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had called the investigators' request to withhold Volume X "mala fide". During Monday's proceedings, the judges had also expressed an inclination to make Volume X public.
"The volume contains details of the JIT's correspondence and will help clear a number of things," Justice Azmat Saeed told Harris, adding that the chapter was being opened on the lawyer’s request.
Sharif children's lawyer
Continuing his arguments before the court, Salman Akram Raja, the lawyer representing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's children, sought to appease the judges' objections to the documents that he had submitted a day earlier.
The bench had questioned the authenticity of the documents submitted by the lawyer on behalf of his clients, pointing out that the trust deed ─ executed between Maryam Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz in February 2006 ─ was signed on Saturday in a country where it was not possible to seek official appointments on a holiday.
"Plenty of barristers and solicitors work on Saturdays ─ even Sundays ─ in London," the lawyer told the court. Justice Ijazul Ahsan replied that, on the contrary, Hussain Nawaz had said that making such appointments on Saturdays was not possible.
The counsel reiterated before the bench that Maryam Nawaz, the PM's daughter, was not the owner of the Avenfield flats in London. "The [JIT's] report shows that Maryam Nawaz is the beneficial owner of the flats," noted Justice Ejaz Afzal, adding that her ownership of the off-shore companies was not included in the tax returns of her husband, Captain Safdar.
“If the court concludes that the ownership is not included in the [tax] returns, then the Representation of the People’s Act 1976 will be applicable," said Justice Ejaz Afzal.
Raja admitted that there were "clerical errors" in the 2006 trust deed, saying that the mistakes were made during the initial proceedings of the Panamagate case when Advocate Akram Sheikh was representing the PM.
According to Raja, Hussain Nawaz had received all the capital from his grandfather Mian Mohammad Nawaz. "Parents cannot bear the responsibility if the son cannot present evidence of his assets," he said.
Justice Ejaz Afzal remarked that the PM was answerable before the courts as he holds a public office.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan noted that during an address to the nation last year, the PM had said that all the records of the children’s business activities were available. "Some suspicious documents were then submitted to the speaker of the National Assembly. We have been waiting for these documents for a year now," he said.
Justice Azmat Saeed asked the lawyer if the case should be sent to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). "The case requires further investigations," said Raja as he concluded his arguments.
NAB to open Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference
"Your stance is that neither the JIT nor the courts can reopen the Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference. The allegations leveled against your client are that his assets suddenly increased," Justice Ejaz Afzal remarked as Finance Minister Ishaq Dar's lawyer, Tariq Hassan, began his arguments. "Your client is the key witness in the Hudaibiya case."
The lawyer representing NAB told the SC that the bureau has decided to reopen the Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference of 2000, saying he would file an appeal before the apex court within a week, challenging the decision of the Lahore High Court to close the case.
During the Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference, Dar had submitted a confessional statement regarding money laundering before a magistrate on April 25, 2000, on the basis of which he was pardoned in the case.
However, during the Panamagate hearings, Dar and his lawyers repeatedly disowned the confessional statements. Earlier in the week, the SC had reminded Dar's lawyer that if the confessional statement in the Hudaibiya case was considered withdrawn, his status as co-accused would be restored and the pardon granted to him would be considered withdrawn.
On the court's directive, Hassan submitted his client's tax returns spanning 34 years before the court.
During Wednesday's hearing, the apex bench had ordered the lawyer to submit documents to establish that the minister had filed his income tax returns between 1981-82 and 2001-02, as well as wealth tax returns from 1985 to 2007.
The counsel argued that his client was not living in the country for the period that the JIT accused him of failing to file his tax returns.
"During this time, [as a non-resident] it was not necessary for Dar to file returns," he said.
"All the allegations in the JIT report are malicious and incorrect," the lawyer maintained, adding that Dar had remained an adviser to Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, a UAE minister, from 2003-2008, and received a sum of GBP 8.2 million as his salary.
The judge wondered why a "Terms of Services" record had not been attached to Dar's appointment letter under Al Nahyan.
'PM concealed assets,' reiterate petitioners
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf's lawyer, Naeem Bokhari, in his final statements, told the court that the PM had not disclosed his position in the UAE-based company Capital FZE.
He did not declare his income while serving as the chairman of the company, added the counsel.
"If it is [proven] true that the assets were not declared, that would amount to dishonesty," said Justice Ejaz Afzal, adding that it would have to be seen whether the issue comes under the jurisdiction of the SC or the Election Commission of Pakistan.
"Is there a restriction on public office holders engaging in work outside their post?" Justice Ijazul Ahsan asked, to which the counsel responded in the affirmative. "Engaging in other work leads to a conflict of interest for the public office holder," said Bokhari.
However, Justice Ejaz Afzal pointed out that the Constitution only restricts judges from engaging in other work, not any other public office holder.
"We accept that the burden of proof is on the Sharif family," remarked Justice Ejaz Afzal.
"If we take the Qatari letters out of the picture, it becomes clear that the PM owned the London flats from 1993-1996," said Bokhari.
"If Maryam Nawaz is the beneficial owner of the flats, her status as a dependent of the prime minister becomes an issue," said Justice Ejaz Afzal, while pointing out to Bokhari that he did not provide any clear evidence in this matter in his petition filed to the court.
The decision to disqualify the prime minister would have to be based on whether or not he hid his assets, said the judge, adding that if Maryam is not proven as the PM’s dependent, then her ownership of the flats is not enough to disqualify Nawaz Sharif.
After Bokhari completed his arguments, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed also spoke before the bench. He said that the Sharif family had not answered the 13 questions posed by the JIT and had failed to submit a money trail to the court.
"Considering the circumstances under which the JIT worked, their operations are worth praising," remarked Justice Ejaz Afzal. "If we decide to send the case to the trial court, it will be a fair trial."