ISLAMABAD: Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif said on Wednesday that the Supreme Court’s detailed order on his review petition against the Panama Papers judgement was, in fact, a subtle message to the accountability court to convict him.
After his fifth appearance before the accountability court, Mr Sharif told reporters: “An order issued on my review petition a few days ago was, in fact, a message to the accountability court that Nawaz Sharif must be punished at all cost.”
“Our conviction is pre-determined; the accountability judge may absolve us but the sentence against us is already written on the wall. I had said in 1999 that the court may convict me in the hijacking case and my apprehensions came true.”
Expressing dismay over the observations of the apex court, he said that rival political parties had used such language against him, adding that it was a clear message for the accountability court.
When asked about the “swift” bail granted to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan in cases that had been pending for three years, Mr Sharif said the standards of justice were different for him.
Earlier, in the courtroom, Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir granted Mr Sharif a seven-day exemption from personal appearance, while his daughter Maryam was exempted for a month.
Says court used language of his political rivals; SECP and tax officials testify
In their absence, Zaafir Khan Tareen would represent Mr Sharif and Barrister Jehangir Khan Jadoon would be Ms Sharif’s pleader.
The exemption was granted on the grounds that both wanted to see the ailing Kulsoom Nawaz, who is undergoing treatment in the UK, as well as security reasons.
On Wednesday, proceedings against the former prime minister and his sons got under way when Sidra Mansoor of the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) testified before the court.
At the outset, she recorded her statement in connection with the Avenfield properties reference, but has yet to testify in the Azizia Steel Company/Hill Metal Establishment reference.
She submitted the SECP records, audited accounts, attested documents from the year 2000-2005, with a covering letter, as well as details of Hussain and Hassan Nawaz’s shares in different companies, which the court said it would examine.
During her cross-examination by Mr Sharif’s counsel, Ms Mansoor admitted that she had not prepared signed or attested the documents.
As per the report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), there were links between the Hudabiya case and the Sharif family’s foreign investments.
Ms Mansoor told the court that from 2000 to 2005, Nawaz Sharif was never the director or shareholder of Hudabiya Paper Mills. She produced Form A and Form 29 from different years that did not contain the name of Nawaz Sharif, either as a shareholder or director of the company.
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor Afzal Qureshi interjected, saying that if there was no mention of Nawaz Sharif, then other names from his family were there. Khawaja Haris objected to this, saying he was only cross-examining the witness to the extent of his client.
Advocate Amjad Pervez, who represents Maryam Nawaz Sharif and retired Captain Mohammad Safdar, asked the SECP official why an undated report was attached to the documents sought by NAB. Ms Mansoor replied that in their letter, NAB had sought attested copies of the audited accounts and certain details, adding that the report contained those ‘details’.
A second prosecution witness, Jehangir Ahmed, also recorded his statement and was cross-examined. The witness, who is the commissioner Inland Revenue (Withholding Taxes) for Lahore, told the court that NAB had asked for Mian Nawaz Sharif’s income tax and wealth tax returns, as well as his wealth statements.
“I handed to them two attested documents, which were returned to me after examination,” he said, and confirmed to Khawaja Haris that he had neither prepared nor signed the documents, nor were they in his custody.
When the counsel asked the witness whether any tax officer had objected to Nawaz Sharif’s tax returns, or if there was any tax-related litigation pending against Mr Sharif, the witness said that he had no knowledge of the matter.
Due to the rain and cold weather, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique and Abid Sher Ali, who usually stay outside the court during the hearing to interact with the media, preferred to sit inside the courtroom.
Others who managed to find seats included Pervaiz Rashid, Talal Chaudhry, Pir Sabir Shah and Amir Muqam. However, Daniyal Aziz, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Anjum Aqeel, Abbas Afridi, Asif Kirmani and Dr Mussadiq Malik could not find any place to sit and remained on their feet during the hearing.
While exiting the courtroom, Mr Sharif was leading his party contingent, while his daughter followed close behind. However, as he reached the exit, where mediapersons were also waiting, he turned to Maryam and said: “I told you to walk alongside me, why are you lagging behind?”.
Ms Sharif acknowledged her father and began walking with him at the head of the party contingent. As they left the building, both father and daughter stood side by side as the former PM fielded a couple of press queries, before leaving the premises.
Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2017