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ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday reiterated his stance that he never owned London properties and also rejected alleged money trail of his son Hussain Nawaz to the apartments.

Testifying before the accountability court in response to the 128 questions put to him, Mr Sharif said he was neither the real/beneficial owner of the Avenfield apartments nor were these his benami properties and this question pertained to Hussain who was declared an absconder.

He also denied any kind of involvement in setting up the Gulf Steel Mills (GSM) in Dubai and said that except for the fact that he had participated in the opening ceremony of GSM in 1974, he never remained involved in any activity related to the mill whether its share-sale agreements or sale proceeds and all these affairs had been looked after by his father. “Since I was not associated with GSM, hence I have no knowledge that how finances were generated for its establishment.”

In his statement before accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir, the PML-N supreme leader alleged that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report mentioned selective collection of evidence and selective portions from the statements of witnesses. He criticised the inclusion of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) in the JIT.

PML-N quaid accuses JIT members of being biased and associated with his rival political parties

About the ISI and MI nominees in the JIT, Mr Sharif said these appointments were inappropriate with obvious fallout on the JIT proceedings given the civil-military tension that had plagued the country for the last 70 years. He said ISI nominee was the most aggressive member of the JIT whose description was given in an application filed in the Supreme Court.

About JIT head Wajid Zia, Mr Sharif said the former’s bias was even otherwise established from the record and it was evident that he had manoeuvred by engaging his cousin Akhtar Raja as solicitor in London to produce “fabricated evidence”. He alleged that Mr Zia was not working independently but was under the influence of other members of the team.

The former prime minister pointed out that the Supreme Court had on April 20, 2017 constituted the JIT for assistance in adjudication of the constitutional petitions and, therefore, its report was inadmissible, inappropriate and irrelevant in the reference. He said he had been deprived of the right to fair trial as enshrined in Article 10-A of the Constitution.

Mr Sharif said the Supreme Court had directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to prepare references on the basis of material collected by the JIT and not that the report might be treated as evidence. The JIT had collected selected documents from various institutions without details as to who authored these documents and who executed them, he added.

The PML-N supreme leader accused the JIT members of being biased and associated with his rival political parties.

About Bilal Rasool of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, he said the former was a maternal nephew of Mian Mohammad Azhar and his family was an ardent supporter of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) which was evident from the photographs of Mian Azhar’s son Hammad Azhar with Imran Khan at his Banigala residence.

Bilal Rasool’s wife was a very active supporter of the PTI and she had been posting comments on social media in favour of the PTI at a time when her husband was appointed member of the JIT. Mr Rasool himself had been a critic of the PML-N government, Mr Sharif alleged.

About Aamir Aziz, the JIT member from the State Bank of Pakistan, he said the former’s inclusion in the team was received with much scepticism as he had previously conducted an inquiry into the Hudaibya Paper Mills corruption reference on the directives of former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.

In 2000, he added, Mr Aziz was working as director inspection banking when he was appointed NAB director by Gen Musharraf. Mr Aziz, he said, was tasked with investigating the Hudaibya reference which had been quashed by a Lahore High Court division bench and recently a Supreme Court bench had also rejected an appeal seeking re-opening of the reference.

About the JIT member from NAB, Irfan Naeem Mangi, the ousted premier said the former’s appointment was under scrutiny by the Supreme Court.

Mr Sharif questioned the legality of the requests for mutual legal assistance written by the JIT to foreign jurisdiction, saying that none of the MLAs had been produced before the accountability court. The statements recorded by the JIT were also inadmissible under the law, he argued.

Mr Sharif said that in his speech in the National Assembly it was his consistent stance that he never remained the real or beneficial owner of the Avenfield properties. “I never held Nielsen and Nescoll’s bearer shares or registered shares certificate. The prosecution has miserably failed to even remotely establish anything to the contrary. There is no credible evidence that the Avenfield apartments ever remained in my possession,” he claimed.

About forensic expert Robert William Radley’s report, Mr Sharif said the former had prepared a biased report in unholy haste.

Till the rising of the court, the former prime minister could respond to 55 of the 128 questions. The judge adjourned the proceedings till Tuesday (today).

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2018