'Deliberations underway to disqualify me from politics for life,' Nawaz claims after SC ruling

Published February 22, 2018
Nawaz Sharif speaks to the media before a NAB hearing in Islamabad. —DawnNews
Nawaz Sharif speaks to the media before a NAB hearing in Islamabad. —DawnNews

Former premier Nawaz Sharif, who was removed as head of his own party on Wednesday by the Supreme Court, accused 'them' ─ without specifying who they are ─ of deliberating over how to deprive Nawaz Sharif of participation in politics for the rest of his life.

Sharif, speaking to the media outside an accountability court in Islamabad ─ where he appeared with his daughter Maryam Nawaz for the hearing of corruption references against himself and his family members ─ said the Supreme Court's ruling on the petitions challenging the Elections Act 2017 was not unexpected for him.

Sharif was disqualified from public office in a landmark July 28, 2017, judgement on the Panama Papers case, after which he was also removed from his post as PML-N head. The passage of the Elections Act 2017 paved the way for him to be re-elected as head of the party once again in October.

The former PML-N chief said that the apex court's ruling which stripped him of party presidency was not unexpected for him.

"First, they paralysed the executive," Sharif said. "Then yesterday, they snatched away the authority of Parliament [to make laws]."

He added that after the Panamagate verdict stripped him of his premiership and yesterday's ruling took away his position as party head, he was now only left with his name. "Now, only I am left. My name Muhammad Nawaz Sharif remains. If you want to snatch this as well then do it," he said.

"Find an article in the Constitution ─ you may be able to find it ─ through which you can take away Muhammad Nawaz Sharif's name. And if you do not find it, then take help from Black's Law Dictionary," Sharif said, referring to the Panamagate verdict which had relied on the dictionary to specify the definition of the term 'asset'.

Sharif said that there is no law in Pakistan that gives the court the right to disqualify a prime minister the way he was.

"Now they are further deliberating over disqualifying Nawaz Sharif from politics for life. What is all of this?" he questioned.

He claimed that the court had declared the Elections Act 2017 as being person-specific, although the same law had originally been created by former PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and abrogated by a martial law administrator.

Following his appearance at the accountability court, Sharif and Maryam were granted an exemption from appearing before the court for the rest of the day's proceedings, after he held a meeting with senior PML-N leaders at Punjab House in the capital.

A large number of PML-N workers and supporters gathered in the grounds of Punjab House and chanted slogans in Sharif's favour, after which the sacked party head took to the roof of the building and waved to his supporters. Video footage also showed the former PML-N chief addressing workers inside Punjab House.

The court was hearing three references related to the Sharif family's Flagship Investments Ltd, the Avenfield (London) properties, Jeddah-based Al-Azizia Company, and Hill Metal Establishment, filed in accordance with the SC orders in the Panamagate verdict.

UK-based witnesses testify

The court had reserved its judgement on objections by Sharif's counsel regarding the filing of supplementary references by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and adjourned the hearing until 1:30pm.

When the hearing resumed, the court recorded the statement of principal at the Radley Forensic Document Laboratory, Robert W. Radley via video link.The statement of the owner of UK-based Quist Solicitors, Akhtar Raja is yet to be recorded.

In July last year, Radley had revealed that the type font used in trust deeds of two companies, Nescoll and Nielson Limited, and Coomber Incorporation — that were submitted to a probe team that was investigating the Panama Papers case by Maryam — was Calibri, which was not commercially available before Jan 31, 2007, and, therefore, the documents which bore a date from 2006 appeared to have been actually prepared and signed on at a later date.

During the hearing today, Radley told Nawaz's counsel Khawaja Haris that he had received the copies of the trust deeds and other documents for a forensic examination near the end of June 2017. He said that the documents were sent to him through the law firm owned by Raja — the nephew of Wajid Zia, who was the head of the joint investigation team. However, Radley said he had not divulged this information to NAB's investigation officer, who had questioned him on December 15 last year.

Radley told the accountability court that Raja had first contacted him by phone and later via email in June last year. When Haris asked him if he could produce the email sent to him by Raja, Radley refused, saying that under British law, he was entitled to keep conversations with his clients confidential.

According to Radley, it was evident that the copies of both declarations that he had been sent had been taken apart and bound again. He added that page numbers and dates had been changed in the documents as well.

Haris asked him if he had a copy of the statement he had given to the NAB officer, to which Radley responded in the affirmative. This irked the defence lawyer, however, who accused that the prosecution was trying to "dictate the witness".

The forensic expert said that he had met the Additional Deputy Prosecutor General NAB Sardar Muzaffar and NAB Director Amjad Majeed Olak on Raja's insistence earlier this week, where they had discussed possible questions that might be raised in court during his testification.

Haris objected to Radley's reliance on notes while giving the testimony, and asked that he submit a copy of the notes to the defence team's representative at the Pakistan High Commission, where the testimony was being recorded.

The forensic expert responded that it was normal practice in England to use notes while testifying in any case and that he was ready to provide a copy to the representative.

'Calibri wasn't available for public use before 2007'

Speaking about the use of Calibri font in the documents submitted by Maryam, Radley reiterated that the font was not commercially available before 2007.

However, he said Calibri was present in the beta one version of Windows Vista that had been provided to IT experts for testing purposes.

When asked by Sharif's counsel whether it was true that 10,000 people had been using Calibri font before 2007, Radley said that those 10,000 had not been using the font; in fact they had been testing the software of which Calibri was a part. The font became available for public use on January 31, 2007, he said.

The hearing of the case was subsequently adjourned till Friday afternooon.

Meanwhile, Maryam Nawaz took to Twitter to declare that her stance had been vindicated after Radley testified that the font was available prior to 2007.

"I was waiting for the day. I knew the witness they were banking on [Radley] would be their watershed. I knew he could not lie," Maryam wrote, seemingly ignoring Radley's clarification that the font had been available before 2007 only for IT experts and developers.

Arguments against supplementary references

Earlier, defence counsel Ayesha Hamid had argued that supplementary references were a way to unnecessarily prolong the proceedings. She also argued that her client's legal team was not informed about the new witnesses, therefore did not have enough time to prepare for cross-questioning.

She said that it was not possible to record the statements of 17 witnesses in one day and requested more time for preparation.

Explaining the need to file supplementary references, the NAB prosecutor had explained that the SC had asked NAB to file preliminary references within six weeks which is why supplementary references had to be filed later.

New evidence including new documents have been included in supplementary references, he had told the court.



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