ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court clearly indicated on Monday that an inquiry into the Panama Papers’ revelations would begin from the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. A five-judge bench — headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali — also asked for documentary evidence from the Sharif family to establish they had acquired properties abroad through legal means.
When the bench resumed hearing a slew of petitions seeking investigation into Panamagate, one of the petitioners, Tariq Asad, said there was an impression that the Panama leaks case was Premier Nawaz Sharif vs PTI Chairman Imran Khan, and that the government was not taking notice of other people named in the Panama Papers.
“How many people have been named in the Panama Papers?” Justice Jamali asked the petitioner. “Around 400,” he said. “You’re giving us a 20-year plan which cannot be completed during our tenure,” the top judge said, addressing the petitioner.
Then he cited the example of second caliph Hazrat Umar (RA) and said “accountability of the ruler of the day is different from others”. Premier Nawaz has already offered himself up for accountability, he said while referring to a speech of Nawaz in which he had said that he was ready for accountability.
Justice Jamali also observed that proceedings against a high court judge have also been initiated under Article 209 of the Constitution, because he was also named in the Panama leaks. After this, the petitioner agreed that accountability should begin with the Sharif family.
Courtroom No 1 was packed to capacity with PTI chief Imran Khan also present with prayer beads in hand throughout the proceedings. He beamed with excitement after hearing the judges’ remarks. In contrast, the Sharif family’s legal team looked a bit nervous.
Salman Aslam Butt, while submitting a reply on behalf of the Sharif family members, admitted that they owned properties abroad. After going through the reply, the bench observed that the respondents have admitted ownership of foreign properties but “now they have to tell us about the trail of money and that when they acquired these properties and how”.
“Now you have to satisfy us that the money had been earned and transferred lawfully,” said Justice Asif Saeed Khosa. Justice Khosa also referred to Nawaz Sharif’s statement in which he stated that he would quit his office, if he was found guilty in Panamagate. “There is a need of declaration for disqualification of any parliamentarian in view of Article 62 of the Constitution,” he said.
Another Judge Justice Azmat Saeed also asked the Sharif family’s counsel that the burden of proof has been shifted on his client to establish they had acquired the foreign properties lawfully.
The Sharif family’s counsel stated that he did not produce documentary evidence as he was under the impression that he would have to present them before a commission.
Upon this, the bench directed all the parties to place on record of the court all documents which they intended to rely on in support of their respective cases.
“No further opportunity in this regard will be available to them during the proceedings before the commission. It is all the more necessary for the reason that this case may also be able to go through these documents before deciding the question of appointment of a commission or otherwise,” reads the court order.
The bench, however, clarified that in case a commission was appointed; this order would not prejudice or curtail its authority to call for any record from any source.
The hearing was adjourned until November 15. During the hearing, the bench urged the media to stop telecasting programmes on sub judice matters. The bench also objected to media talks of political leaders on the Supreme Court premises.
PM’s children reply
Hussain Nawaz, son of Premier Nawaz, in his reply, admits ownership of properties abroad. He says he is non-resident, settled and conducting his lawful business outside Pakistan for almost 16 years.
“Entities [properties] are being managed under a trust arrangement for the sole benefit of respondent No 7 [Hussain Nawaz], with respondent No 6 [Maryam Nawaz] being the trustee thereof. Other than the role of a trustee for and on behalf of respondent No 7, respondent No 6 [Hassan Nawaz] has no concern, relationship, ownership or control of the entities and/or the properties,” says the reply.
It is further submitted that the source of funds resulting in vesting of beneficial ownership of the entities and, consequently, the properties of Hussain Nawaz, in January 2006, was the investment made by late Mian Muhammad Sharif, in 1980, from the sale proceeds of his steel business in Dubai.
No part of the funds resulting in vesting of beneficial ownership of the entities in favour of Hussain were generated or transferred/transmitted from Pakistan, states the reply adding that before Jan 2006, none of the entities or properties was owned by Hussain or by any of his family members.
Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Premier Sharif states in her reply that she is not a dependent of her father. “Respondent No 6 [Maryam] is an independent taxpayer, holding NTN 1308504-2, who files her tax returns with the tax department wherein all of her income, assets and liabilities have been duly disclosed as per applicable law.”
Maryam states she is not and has never been a beneficial owner of any of the properties or entities as she has never made any contribution/payment in relation to the consideration or expenses pertaining to the properties or entities nor has derived any benefit there from. She says the properties are being managed under a trust arrangement for the sole benefit of her brother as she is only a trustee.
Hassan Nawaz says in his reply that he is not a dependent of his father as he is settled and conducting his lawful business outside Pakistan for almost 22 years. Hassan states that he is not and has never been owner of any of the properties or entities.
The reply says that none of the members of the Sharif family had purchased the properties between 1993 and 1996. The Sharif family denied that any loan was obtained by the respondents against the properties as collateral, or any judgment was passed against them.
It is submitted that Hussain has duly gifted a sum of $ 1,914,054 to his father in the tax year 2011. Similarly, Nawaz Sharif duly gifted Rs31,700,000 and Rs19,459,440 to Maryam and Hassan.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2016.