ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday testified before the accountability court that he neither owned Al-Azizia Steel Mills nor was he engaged in establishing or running operations of the company.
Mr Sharif partially recorded his statement in Al-Azizia reference under Section 342 of the criminal procedure code (CrPC), as out of over 100 questions he gave answers to the 44 questions which were put to him by Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik of the accountability court.
Responding to a question about his address to the nation as prime minister in which he presented his stance regarding acquisition of Gulf Steel Mills, its sale and subsequent utilisation of its sale proceeds in reference to the Panama Papers issue, Mr Sharif said: “As regards my speech on the floor of Assembly, it is submitted that subject to my objection that the said speech cannot be read in view of Article 66 of the Constitution, the speech made by me on May 16, 2016 was based on copies of the various agreements and related documents pertaining to Dubai factory and another agreement related to Al-Azizia Steel Co.
“I had never participated in any of the transactions pertaining to establishment and running of business of Gulf Steel Mills or its sale and subsequent use/disposal of its sale proceeds.
Flagship Investment reference investigation officer summoned for cross-examination after ex-PM records his statement
“Similar is my position with respect to the establishment, running, and operation of Al-Azizia Steel Mills Co. These facts stand un-contradicted and uncontroverted by any evidence produced by the prosecution in the instant case. I may add here that I never stated either in my address to the nation or speech in the National Assembly that I was ever the real owner of Al-Azizia Steels Co or Hill Metal Establishment.”
The former prime minister said the prosecution miserably failed to bring on record any evidence to even remotely establish anything to the contrary. “I may further add that neither the acquisition of Gulf Steel Mills, nor its sale or subsequent utilization of its sale proceeds had any connection to myself,” he declared.
Asked why he did not join the investigations pursuant to the NAB notice, Mr Sharif said: “These notices were neither served on me nor any attempt was made to do so. Moreover, the contents of these notices and the context in which those were purportedly issued clearly show that they were designed merely as eyewash. As such, there was no occasion for me to have joined investigation in response to the said call up notices. It may be added here that although the call up notices were never served upon me, NAB had provided copy of this notice to the electronic media which was widely publicized and it was pursuant thereto that in order to avoid any misuse of it from NAB, a response was sent to the call up notices.”
While answering a question that he was holding public office at the time of accumulation of the asset, the ex-premier said: “I remained the chief minister of Punjab, caretaker chief minister of Punjab, finance minister of Punjab, leader of the opposition [in the National Assembly] and prime minister of Pakistan. However, I was not holding any public office with effect from the date of the military coup that took place on October 10, 1999 till I was again elected PM for a third time in June 2013.”
Asked if he was the most influential figure of the Sharif family, the ex-PM replied: “The most influential person of the Sharif family remained my late father Mian Mohammad Sharif who breathed his last in October 2004.” However, he expressed ignorance about the income tax returns, wealth statement and wealth tax returns filed by his son, Hussain Nawaz Sharif, during the period between 1996 and 2016.
Regarding his own tax returns, Mr Sharif said that following the military coup in 1999, he was forced to leave Pakistan. He testified that he lived in exile in Saudi Arabia from 2001 till 2008.
The court later summoned the investigation officer in Flagship Investment reference for cross-examination by defence counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed on Thursday when the former prime minister would continue to record his statement.
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2018