ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday told an accountability court he had never had any transaction with Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani.
In response to a question put to him by Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik about the correspondence between the Qatari prince and the joint investigation team (JIT) constituted in the Panama Papers case, Mr Sharif said: “I had never participated in any transaction with Prince Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani; for that matter, any transaction which is mentioned in the worksheet and related paper.”
He claimed that his name did not “figure in any capacity whatsoever in the two letters written by Prince Hamad bin Jassim”.
Making a statement under the Criminal Procedure Code in the Al-Azizia reference, the former premier said his father Mian Mohammad Sharif took care of him and his family when they were in exile following the October 1999 coup against his elected government.
“My late father arranged and provided sufficient amounts for the day-to-day living of all my family members; subsequently, he also raised funds from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to establish the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and to run and operate his business during his lifetime through my elder son, namely Hussain Nawaz Sharif,” he said.
“Following the military coup on October 12, 1999, I was firstly confined and thereafter exiled from Pakistan on December 10, 2000…. (A)s regards the freezing of assets and businesses in Pakistan, the correct position is that subsequent to the military coup... the entire record of the businesses of the Sharif Group, which were being run by my late father Mian Mohammad Sharif since 1937, was illegally removed by various agencies and since then has never been returned to the family,” he said.
“In this respect a report was also lodged with the local police station but no action was taken. Subsequently, I was exiled from Pakistan and the NAB [National Accountability Bureau] had illegally and forcibly taken over the residential houses belonging to my parents along with a large number of shares of various companies belonging to my other family members.”
Answering another question, Mr Sharif reiterated that he had never claimed the acquisition or ownership of Al-Azizia/Hill Metal Establishment (HME). “As regards the remittances from the HME, I have never denied the receipt of the said remittances, rather I openly declared the same throughout my tax record.”
In response to a question about NAB’s efforts to obtain information from Saudi authorities regarding Al-Azizia/HME, he said the requests seeking Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) sent to Saudi Arabia were “never pursued by NAB with any degree of seriousness or due diligence. Rather, in the first instance, in the MLA sent to Saudi Arabia the JIT deliberately and maliciously provided deficient and incorrect data, and thereafter NAB never rectified the said defects and deficiencies by sending a fresh MLA or providing the correct data to the competent authorities in Saudi Arabia”.
During the proceedings, Mr Sharif told the judge that it was not just in October 1999 that his family experienced hostility from certain circles, “but this has always happened. It is a painful story of our family”.
Recollecting past events, he said that in 1972 Pakistan’s biggest steel mills — the Ittefaq Foundry, which was owned by his family — was nationalised and at that time he had not even entered politics.
By the time the court rose for the day, the former prime minister had responded to 89 of the 151 questions supposed to be put to him during the recording of his testimony.
Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2018