Panamagate scandal: CJP forms five-judge larger bench

Ex attorney-general Salman Aslam Butt to represent PM


Hasnaat Malik October 29, 2016
Petitioner Zafar Ali Shah is seeking court direction to de-seat PTI, MQM lawmakers. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali on Friday constituted a larger bench to hear the Panama Papers case on November 1.

The chief justice, who is scheduled to retire on December 31, will head the five-member bench himself.Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Justice Amir Hani Muslim, Justice Ijaz Ahsan and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed are also part of the bench.

Justice Khosa, known as an expert in cases of criminal nature, has been included in the larger bench for the first time. Legal experts believe that his presence will be important.

PTI and other political parties have filed petitions in the apex court, seeking to probe the Panamagate scam. But, the PTI chief is the only petitioner who has sought disqualification of the PM.

On September 27, the court admitted these petitions for hearing.

On October 20, the three-judge bench issued notices to all respondents, including the PM.

Legal experts believe the apex court’s next hearing will be significant as it will determine whether or not it could intervene in the matter.

Already the PTI chief has announced he will attend the Supreme Court hearing on Tuesday and witness the proceedings. Similarly, a number of PML-N ministers will also attend the proceedings.

Former AG to represent PM

A senior official told The Express Tribune that the prime minister had engaged former attorney-general Salman Aslam Butt to represent him in the apex court.

Salman is known as a successful attorney-general because he provided relief in a number of cases to the federal government during his tenure.

The incumbent Attorney-General, Ashtar Ausaf Ali is an expert in constitutional affairs.

The official said that the PM’ legal team held several meetings for devising a strategy ahead of the court proceedings. Law Minister Zahid Hamid, Attorney-General Ashtar Ausaf, Former attorney-general Salman Aslam Butt, Advisor to PM on legal affairs Barrister Zafarullah and Information Technology Minister Anusha Rehman attended these meetings.

Another senior official stated that the team would decide today (Saturday) whether or not to submit a written reply.

He contended that during his presentation, Attorney-General Ashtar Ausaf might submit an ‘out-of-the-box solution’ on the constitution of the inquiry commission.

The PM’s legal team is also learnt to have obtained copies of the arrest warrant of Imran Khan in the PTV attack case. Sources contended that it might be presented before the top court for raising objections over his credentials.

Hamid Khan and Naeem Bukhari will represent the PTI chief.

Although Salman Aslam Butt and Hamid Khan are associated with the same legal firm – Cornelius, Lane & Mufti – but they are appearing against each other in this case. One of PTI’s lawyers, Chaudhry Faisal Hussain, said that if the agitation was allowed outside the SC premises in 2007, there should not be any restriction on PTI holding a sit-in this time.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2016.

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