ISLAMABAD: Testifying before the accountability court in the Avenfield properties reference on Thursday, former prime minister’s daughter Maryam Nawaz said she never claimed real or beneficial ownership of the London flats.

Maryam responded to 46 of the 128 questions till the rising of the court. “Be that as it may, as far as I am concerned, I had never claimed before the honorable Supreme Court that I was ever the real or beneficial owner of the Avenfield properties and that has been my stance throughout, as much as in the instant case. Before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), I had also given my defence in categorical terms that I was never the real or beneficial owner of the Avenfield apartments,” she said.

Maryam argued that Volume-10 of the JIT report containing requests seeking mutual legal assistance (MLA) could not be used as admissible evidence against her since the accountability court had rejected her application seeking copy of the Volume-10. Therefore, she added, any reference to or use of record of the MLA was against her right to fair trial.

“I heard and understood the prosecution evidence recorded in this reference; however, the prosecution has miserably failed to produce an iota of admissible evidence against me.”

Maryam said the JIT was biased and incompetent as she and her husband retired Captain Mohammad Safdar were not among the respondents who were directed to associate themselves with the JIT investigation.

Her statement before accountability court was a rehash of that of her father Nawaz Sharif

She said JIT member Bilal Rasool of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan was maternal nephew of Mian Muhammad Azhar and his family was an ardent supporter of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. Mr Rasool himself had been a vocal critic of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government and his wife an active supporter of the PTI, she alleged.

Similarly, she said, Amer Aziz was the one who had investigated the Hudaibya Paper Mills corruption reference after he was brought into the National Accountability Bureau during the dictatorial regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf.

About another JIT member Ifran Naeem Mangi, she said his appointment/induction into NAB had been under scrutiny in the Supreme Court.

Maryam also repeated her father Nawaz Sharif’s version about JIT members from the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Military Intelligence. She said their appointments were inappropriate, with obvious fallout on the JIT proceedings given the civil-military tension that had plagued the country for over 70 years.

About JIT head Wajid Zia, she said that his bias even otherwise stood established on the record and was further evident from the fact that he maneuvered to have his cousin engaged as a solicitor for “manufacturing false evidence” in the case.

Money trail

When asked about the establishment, running and sale proceeds of Gulf Steel Mills, Maryam said she was hardly one year old when the mill was established, adding that she had no information about the operations of the mill and how its shares were disposed of. She claimed that she knew nothing about the statements of Tariq Shafi regarding two agreements for disposal of shares of the Gulf Steel Mills.

Maryam distanced herself and her father from Hudaibya Paper Mills as well, saying: “Arrangement of the transfer of shares and appointment of any director of Hudaibya Paper Mills from the Sharif family was the exclusive domain of my late grandfather Mian Muhammad Sharif. He was the sole person responsible for setting up all business concerns; me or my father did not contribute or had any role in this regard.”

Most of what Maryam said in the court was a rehash of the statement her father Nawaz Sharif had given to the court earlier this week.

Their statements were identical to the extent that Maryam’s counsel, Amjad Pervaiz, suggested to the court that her answers could be “copied and pasted” in order to expedite the proceedings and not have the court typists input the same information — a request that was accepted.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2018