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ISLAMABAD: Head of the joint investigation team Wajid Zia has said that the JIT report on references against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members is connected with each other and cannot be read out separately.

Mr Zia, a star prosecution witness, stated this while recording his statement before the accountability court in the Avenfield properties reference on Thursday.

When accountability judge Mohammad Bashir asked Mr Zia to only refer to the documents from the JIT report which were relevant to the Avenfield properties reference, he said it was not possible because the whole matter was connected and so was the JIT report and it could not be seen in parts.

In October last year, the former prime minister had requested the accountability court to club all the references since these were based on the JIT report. But when the trial court turned down his request, he challenged the decision in the Islamabad High Court.

National Accountability Bureau Deputy Prosecutor General (DPG) Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi had then claimed that the JIT report dealt with the references separately.

On Thursday, the accountability judge expressed displeasure over the attitude of DPG Abbasi and left the courtroom in anger as the latter was continuously interrupting the cross-examination of Mr Zia by defence counsel Amjad Pervez.

Wajid Zia records his statement in Avenfield properties case against Sharifs

Advocate Pervez argued that the witness could only refer to the documents and instances where he was involved and could not claim the authenticity of documents authored by other members of his investigation team.

At this, DPG Abbasi in a loud voice asked what was happening and repeatedly obstructed the process of testimony, not letting the defence counsel complete it.

Judge Bashir left his pen and paper, rose from his seat and said that what was happening. “It cannot be like this. This is unfair and not comfortable for me.”

The judge later put off in the matter till March 15.

About summaries, statements of the accused, opinion or conclusions as a part of the JIT report and whether or not these could be admissible as evidence, the judge said he would decide the matter once Mr Zia narrated the entire events.

Mr Zia testified that the JIT had collected all the documents submitted by the Sharif family to the Supreme Court as well as their statements and later analysed these.

The JIT collected material from different sources, including the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and NAB. It also wrote letters to the authorities in the United Kingdom, the British Virgin Islands, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Mr Zia said the JIT had also recorded the statements of people connected with these matters, including Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Tariq Shafi, Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz and retired Captain Mohammad Safdar.

Amjad Pervez argued that under Qanoon-i-Shahadat (law of evidence), the statement of the accused recorded before an investigation officer was not an admissible evidence. Moreover, he said, the JIT had no jurisdiction to analyse the statements.

At this, DPG Abbasi said all these statements had been submitted to the Supreme Court and they were part of the JIT report. “How were these not admissible?” he asked.

The judge asked how the statement of the accused could be submitted to the trial court under the law.

At this, Wajid Zia said “if you have to comprehend this report, you have to read all its nine volumes”. When the judge asked the JIT head to only cite the evidence related to the Avenfield corruption reference, he said the report was inseparable as everything was connected.

Advocate Pervez said the JIT report was not admissible and it could only be considered as an opinion as per SC judgements. He argued that if there was any response to the mutual legal assistance (MLA) that Mr Zia himself had written or he seized any documents, he could submit this to the court. The summaries, statements of the accused or witnesses, opinion or conclusions could not be submitted under the law, he said.

At this, the NAB prosecutor said that all this would apply to the investigation officer of this case, and not Mr Zia.

Khawaja Haris Ahmed, the lead defence counsel, would cross-examine the witness at the next hearing.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2018