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ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has claimed that irrespective of what the accountability court decides about corruption references against him and his family members, he is satisfied that the ‘false report’ of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has been exposed.

“The trial proceedings also uncovered the truth in the decision of the Panama bench,” he said, while referring to the Supreme Court decision in the Panama Papers case.

He expressed these views while talking to reporters after appearing before the accountability court in the references filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on the direction of the apex court.

He said after his disqualification over Iqama, he had decided to boycott the accountability court proceedings but later reversed the decision which was appropriate in that it exposed the “lies of the JIT”. The JIT comprised officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), State Bank of Pakistan and NAB. It was headed by Wajid Zia of the Federal Investigation Agency.

Wajid Zia says a major chunk of JIT investigation was based on documents submitted to SC during the hearing of Panama Papers case

“Whatever the decision of the pending references may be, I am satisfied that the people have known about the false report of the JIT,” he declared.

“Today everyone knows about the mystery behind the cases,” he said, claiming that a few people did not want the PML-N to win the 2018 general elections. “It is for this reason that they are creating hurdles in the way of the PML-N government but divine decisions override men’s proposals,” he added.

Mr Sharif said the general elections were entirely different from Senate elections. It was in fact people’s tsunami and the tide could not be stopped, he added.

The former prime minister said that his family constructed seven houses, spread over an area of 90 kanals, in Model Town in 1962. The cost of these properties was much higher than the London flats, he said. NAB investigated even those family assets which had been purchased when he was a student, he said.

“We purchased the properties with legitimate wealth,” he insisted, claiming that there was not an iota of corruption money in the assets. “We never received kickbacks in a single mega project,” he said.

He said NAB never alleged in the references that the assets were the proceeds of ill-gotten money. “These are in fact fraud references,” he remarked.

JIT chief’s testimony

Meanwhile, the JIT head admitted before the accountability court that a major chunk of JIT’s investigation was based on the documents submitted before the Supreme Court during the hearing of the Panama Papers case.

During the cross-examination, defe­nce counsel Khawaja Haris continued grilling Mr Zia regarding establishment of Gulf Steel Mills, selling of its shares and establishment of Ahli Steels Mills.

When Mr Zia was asked during the cross-examination if the JIT had procured record related to Gulf Steel Mills from the UAE authorities, the prosecution witness said a letter under Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) was written to the UAE government but it was never responded to.

The defence counsel further asked if the JIT had tried to contact any of the Gulf Steel Mills directors to verify the agreements regarding sale of shares, Mr Zia said the JIT had interviewed Shahbaz Sharif and Tariq Shafi only. The JIT head also denied that the investigators had verified the share sales agreement of the Gulf Steel Mills and the names of the mill directors when it had been converted into Ahli Steel Mills.

The counsel said the JIT instead of conducting proper investigation and verification of the documents, which the apex court had provided to the investigation team, only conducted analysis of the reports.

Judge Mohammad Bashir of the accountability court then asked Mr Zia to respond if the JIT had conducted the investigation or otherwise. Mr Zia said that on the basis of the documents submitted before the apex court, the JIT presumed that the Ahli Steel Mills was re-established on the one-million-square-foot plot that had been initially allotted to the Gulf Steel Mills.

He said the mutual legal assistance that the JIT received from the UAE’s ministry of justice did not mention any reference of the JIT’s letter.

When asked if JIT members visited the UAE to verify the government response, the prosecution witness initially denied but when he was reminded of the visit of two members he recalled that they did visit the UAE but did not question the authorities about the content of the MLA document.

The accountability court adjourned the proceedings till Tuesday (today).

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2018