LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) appears perturbed over the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) decision to file an appeal in the Supreme Court to reopen the Hudaibya Paper Mills case against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother and wants the Supreme Court to find out “who had pressurised the anti-graft body to do so”.
Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal made thinly veiled references to the establishment as he spoke about the ruling party’s unease over NAB’s plan to request the Supreme Court to reopen the Hudaibya Paper Mills money laundering case.
The case had been prepared against Mr Sharif and his brother Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in 2000 on the basis of a statement recorded by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, considered to be one of the Sharifs’ most trusted lieutenants.
“There are reports that [some] influential people had pressurised NAB to [file an appeal in the SC] to reopen the Hudaibya Paper Mills case. The chief justice of Pakistan should probe [these reports].
We suspect that we may not get justice in this case too, like in the case of the WhatsApp call during [the course of the] formation of the Joint Investigation Team [that probed the Panama Papers case],” Mr Iqbal said.
Interior minister urges SC to probe reports ‘influential people’ put pressure on anti-graft body
He recalled that the Lahore High Court had closed the Hudaibya Paper Mills case. “If the trend of reopening such cases takes off, we will be heading towards anarchy as no [court] decision or order will be final,” the minister warned, and cautioned other institutions from transgressing their domain.
“Pakistan’s parliament is no orphanage — it is being discredited and some other institutions are transgressing their jurisdiction...we are very concerned about it. There will be cracks in the system if the supremacy of people is challenged,” he said.
The interior minister questioned the SC’s verdict in the Panama Papers case. “Article 10 of the Constitution ensures the right to fair trial and due process. The right to appeal [a decision] is a fundamental right of citizens...The Nawaz Sharif case will be added to the list of other controversial decisions [of the apex court] just like the Z.A. Bhutto, Maulvi Tameezuddin and Zafar Ali Shah cases.”
He said the SC had ignored the arguments presented by the Sharif family’s lawyers during the review petition. “The apex court’s decision has cost Pakistan a loss of $14bn to $16bn and investment also stopped.”
Responding to a question, the interior minister said the PML-N stood firmly by Mr Sharif.
“There is no one in the PML-N who wants to be a candidate for the prime minister’s office. Even Mr Khaqan Abbasi had resisted [his nomination] as he was not interested in becoming the premier,” he said.
On the other hand, Awami Muslim League president Sheikh Rashid commented on the hubbub in the PML-N camp, saying that the Sharif brothers and Mr Dar would not find it easy to get away this time.
“Even if Mr Dar withdraws his confessional statement [in the money laundering case] he is still a suspect,” he said, adding that the apex court had taken a lenient approach towards the Sharif family as the punishment for submitting fake documents in court was seven years.
He claimed that efforts were under way in Turkey and Saudi Arabia to devise another National Reconciliation Ordinance in order to rescue the Sharif family.
Sharifs’ appearance before accountability court
Mr Sharif and his sons — Hassan and Hussain — will not appear before the accountability court on Tuesday, a senior PML-N leader told Dawn on Saturday.
“Since we are not expecting justice in the NAB references against the Sharif family there is no point in appearing before the [Islamabad] accountability court,” he said.
On Wednesday, the accountability court had summoned the former prime minister and his sons on Sept 19.
“Mr Sharif will return from London but he has no plans to appear before the accountability court in these references since its outcome seems to be predetermined,” the PML-N leader said.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2017