House of Sharifs: Top court signals interest in reviewing divergent claims

Published: January 6, 2017
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 PHOTO: REUTERS

PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: For the first time during the ongoing hearing of the Panamagate case, the top court has hinted at reviewing the alleged contradictions in the statements – made during interviews over the years – of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members about ownership of their London properties.

When PTI counsel Naeem Bukhari referred to interviews of PM Sharif, his children and wife to establish their contradictory stances, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa – who heads the Supreme Court’s five-judge larger bench – observed that there are two kinds of news reports.

“The first is a general analysis and the second is related to the statements (interviews) of an individual,” he said, adding that “if someone does not deny his statement then it has value. However, if he denies then he can be confronted.”

Referring to the interviews of the members of the Sharif family, Justice Khosa said if they denied their statements regarding their London flats in their previous interviews then the court might summon them.

London flats were bought through Qatari investments, Sharif family tells SC

However, another member of the bench Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh asked if the SC was recording evidences. He expressed wonder over citation of news clipping by Bukhari. “Don’t muddy the waters. If we hang people on basis of news clippings then your client [Imran Khan] will also not survive” he said.

Legal experts said the previous bench – headed by former chief justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali – did not consider Sharif family’s interviews during its 10 hearings of the case. However, this bench is thoroughly examining their interviews and has pointed out several contradictions in their stance about London flats.

They said if the respondents contradict their previous statements then they might be called to clarify their position and the opponent lawyers would also cross examine them. However, it is interesting to see whether the top court while exercising its jurisdiction under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution can record their statements or not.

During the hearing, Justice Khosa pointed out that premier Sharif never stated that London properties are owned by his son Hussain Nawaz. “Likewise, during his interviews Hussain referred to the luxury apartments in London as ‘our flats’ and not as ‘my flats’,” he observed.

The judge said Hassan Nawaz had stated in his interview in 1999 that he was a student with no source of income and that rent of the flats was coming from Pakistan. On the other hand, Hussain, his brother in a recent interview in 2016 said that Hassan had been doing business for last 21 years. Justice Khosa said there was no mention of any Qatari investment in Hussain’s recent interview.

The PTI lawyer also referred the interview of the PM’s wife, Kalsoom Nawaz, with Guardian in 2000. Bukhari said in the said interview Kulsoom had said the London flats were bought because children were studying in London.  On the other hand, premier’s daughter Maryam Nawaz in her interview in 2011 denied owning any property abroad.

Justice Khosa also asked if there was any declaration or document about the disassociation of PM Sharif from his family business in 1997. “Do we have any record when Hussain completed his study abroad?” he questioned.

He asked the counsel for petitioner to provide the transcript of the statement of Haroon Pasha – the CEO of Sharif’s family business – who in a recent TV interview claimed that documentary record of money trail was available and that they had already provided it to the lawyers.

SC to hold Panamagate hearings on daily basis

Bukhari also cited London High Court’s 1999 decision in the Hudaibiya Papers Mills loans case against Sharif family, adding that later they had paid $34 million and delinked the attached properties.

Justice Sheikh questioned how this $34 million were paid and who made the payment. Upon this, Bukhari referred to the Zafar Ali Shah case judgment to establish that the money was paid through illegal means.

The bench, however, asked him to provide relevant part of the verdict. “We need to find out the truth in this case as everybody wants to know the truth,” Justice Sheikh remarked.

Dependency issue

Naeem Bukhari contended that Maryam is dependent on her father but the PM did not show her in his income tax as well as nomination paper, therefore, he should be disqualified.

Justice Ejaz Afzal observed Bukhari’s arguments without defining the term ‘dependency’ were like building castles in the air. However, the PTI lawyer was unable to convince the bench on the issue.

Justice Afzal asked if a woman could be called dependent if she lived with father but had her own source of income. “But Maryam has no source of income,” the PTI counsel claimed.

To a query of the bench, the PTI’s lawyer Chaudhry Faisal Hussain said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was adjudicating the matter related to the disqualification of Maryam’s husband, Captain Safdar, due to non-disclosure of London properties by his wife.

Counsel for Maryam, Shahid Hamid, told the bench that former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has sought disqualification of the PM on the issue of dependency of his daughter and the matter is pending in the Lahore High Court.

“If, according to your claim, Maryam is a beneficial owner of London properties then how can she be dependent on his father?” Justice Afzal asked the PTI lawyer.

Continuing his arguments, Bukhari pleaded that if the Qatari prince’s letter is taken then it is clear that the Sharif family owned the UK properties in 1994. At start of the previous hearings on Nov 15, the PM’s children’s counsel presented the letter which showed that the flats bought through Qatari investments.

“The letter is a concoction. The PM in none of his speeches – to the nation or on the floor of the parliament – mentioned about the investment made in Qatar,” the PTI’s counsel said.

Justice Khosa, however, questioned as to how the said letter could be ignored as the children of Prime Minister were totally relying on it. “Even if we take out the letter their stance will remain unchanged,” he said.

Panamagate case: Sharif family continues to spring surprises

Justice Afzal said if the Qatari prince’s letter was fabricated then why the counsel was mentioning it repeatedly. “It could be used for the purpose of contradictions,” he added.

Justice Khosa said the court will give full opportunity to the petitioners as well as respondents to establish their stances.  “There will be no adjournment in this case,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2017.

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