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ISLAMABAD: Retired Capt Mohammad Safdar on Monday termed the Panamagate investigation a conspiracy against the elected government and said the perpetrators and abettors may face proceedings under Article 6 (high treason) at an appropriate time.

Talking to mediapersons after attending the accountability court proceeding, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law said: “JIT [Joint Investigation Team] substituted Article 58(2B) of the Constitution, which was abolished under the 18th amendment in 2010. The article was used for ousting elected prime ministers in the past.”

Mr Safdar said the JIT report was prepared in haste.

“Nobody knows where it was finalised and the only objective behind the investigation was to send PM Nawaz Sharif home and humiliate the [PML-N] voters. But it is impossible to prove the case before the court,” he added.

JIT has replaced Article 58(2B) which was abolished under 18th amendment, says former prime minister’s son-in-law

The accountability court exempted Mr Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz from personal appearance on Monday as their counsel informed the court that their flight from Lahore had been cancelled due to bad weather.

During his cross-examination, JIT head Wajid Zia admitted that the investigation team had concealed the fact that British Virgin Island (BVI) authorities had declined to give information on the request forwarded on May 21, 2017, under the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) seeking details about the offshore companies - Nielson and Nescoll.

In reply to a question by Advocate Amjad Pervez, the counsel for Maryam Nawaz, Mr Zia said JIT neither mentioned/attached this MLA request nor the BVI’s response with its report.

He admitted that the JIT had forwarded three other MLAs which had been appended with the Volume X of the report.

He said during the course of investigation none of the witnesses said Maryam Nawaz was the beneficial or real owner of the London flats. Nor the ex-prime minister’s daughter claimed ownership of the offshore companies - Nielson and Nescoll.

The star prosecution witness, however, said documents which the Sharif family had presented before the Supreme Court as well as other papers filed in the apex court were sufficient to deny the claim that Maryam Nawaz had no connection with the offshore companies.

Mr Zia testified that when the JIT questioned Hassan Nawaz whether any member of his family had remained the beneficial owner of Nielsen and Nescoll from 1994 till 2006, he did not straightaway deny but said he had no means of knowing about it. On the other hand, Hussain Nawaz is the beneficial owner of the Nielsen and Nescoll trust.

In 2006, the bearer share certificates of Nielsen and Nescoll were changed into registered shares with Minerva Services Ltd whose management company was Trustee Services Ltd.

Mr Zia said during the investigation JIT neither associated Minerva nor Trustee Services in the probe. It also got no evidence that Maryam Nawaz ever paid professional fee to the management companies of Nielsen and Nescoll or ground rent for the flats.

However, he said, no such document was provided by any of the accused and the JIT then wrote MLAs to get the documents about Avenfield properties. But the MLAs were not responded yet.

Talking about the MLAs written to the BVI authorities, he said its contents were decided by the JIT members and “I used to sign them as its head. BVI authorities returned our first MLA saying it was not in conformity with the BVI laws and then another MLA was sent that received response.”

Mr Zia said JIT had sent a request to the BVI seeking relevant record which was awaited till the filing of the references.

Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir directed Mr Zia to request the Supreme Court registrar for the provision of MLAs record pertaining to the JIT correspondence with the BVI authorities.

The court adjourned the proceeding to Tuesday (today).

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2018