Panamagate hearing: SC issues notice to Sharif family members, Imran

Asks all respondents named in multiple petitions to appear before bench

Hasnaat Mailk October 21, 2016
SC asks all respondents named in multiple petitions to appear before bench. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has issued notices to all respondents – including the prime minister and members of his family, as well as his main political rival Imran Khan – mentioned in several petitions filed in connection with the Panamagate scandal.

A three-judge bench, led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Anwar Zaheer Jamali, took up the petitions – filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaf  chief Imran Khan, Jamaat-e- Islami (JI) Amir Sirajul Haq, Pakistan Awami League head Sheikh Rasheed, Watan Party chairman Barrister Zafarullah Khan and Tariq Asad Advocate – on Thursday.

“Having heard learned ASCs [lawyers] for the petitioners and the petitioners [themselves] in-person at some length, we are inclined to issue notices to the respondents and the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) accordingly. Office to re-list these cases within two weeks,” read the written order of the bench.

The petitions had named Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his sons Hassan Nawaz Sharif and Hussain Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif and her husband Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the secretaries of the ministries of law and interior among respondents. Imran is seeking the ouster of Premier Nawaz for hiding alleged offshore assets,revealed in the Panama papers, in his election form. However, Tariq Asad listed the PTI chief as a respondent in his petition, and therefore, he has been issued a notice too.

The court also issued notices to the AGP and NAB chairman over a petition filed by journalist Asad Kharal seeking a progress report from the bureau regarding an investigation into his complaint about Rs100 billion worth of corruption in connection to Panamagate.

The bench, however, rejected the Watan Party’s constitutional petition against the investigation of Panama leaks through judicial commission. “It is premature and does not call for exercising our jurisdiction under article 184 (3) of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 at this juncture. Accordingly, this petition is dismissed,” states the top court order.

The court also refused to pass an order to restrain the PTI from holding a sit-in in the federal capital on November 2. Two petitioners – Tariq Asad and Barrister Zafarullah – had urged the bench to stop the party from holding its planned protest. “Let it to be clear to everyone, we will never enter the political arena … maintaining and protecting fundamental rights is the job of the executive… if it fails, then of course we will intervene,” the CJP told both petitioners.

When Zafarullah argued that PTI is threatening  the judiciary by holding the sit-in, bench member Justice Khilji Arif Hussain observed that “no one can threaten us as we know what we have powers.”

All petitioners, including Imran, were present in the courtroom to witness the proceedings.  The courtroom was jam-packed with supporters of both PTI and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). AGP Ashtar Ausaf Ali and members of the government’s legal team were present during proceedings as well.

The bench briefly heard the arguments of the petitioners’ counsels.

Counsel for PTI Hamid Khan stated that even though the Panama Papers appeared in the first week of April, the federal government had so far taken no practical step to investigate them. When Justice Hussain asked him what he wanted, Hamid brought up previous Supreme Court judgements pertaining to the Hajj and Pakistan Steel Mills scams, where the court intervened in matters of public interest and corruption. The bench, however, told him it would issue notices to respondents first.

AGP Ausaf, while talking to The Express Tribune, said the court will decide the maintainability of these petitions on the next date of hearing. He said he will argue on the same point.

A member of the PML-N legal team, meanwhile, said they are happy with Thursday’s proceedings as the court has yet to accept these petitions for regular hearing. He added that several objections will also be raised on the maintainability of these petitions.

PTI legal team members, on the other hand, are not comfortable with the outcome of hearing, which ended in adjournment for two weeks. Senior PTI member Ishaq Khan Khakwani, who is looking after  the party’s legal affairs, said they were expecting the top court to take up Panamagate the same way it took up the Memogate scandal, where a commission was formed on the request of then petitioner Nawaz Sharif on the first hearing. He said that when the AGP was present in the courtroom, the bench must have asked him for legal assistance on same day.

Chaudhry Faisal Hussain advocate believes that the PTI legal team should try for swift disposal of case as PML-N’s objective is to ensure the matter lingers on in the top court the same way it is with the ECP.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2016.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ