Top court reserves Panamagate ruling

Justice Khosa says bench will review each word submitted before coming out with verdict


Hasnaat Malik February 24, 2017
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court reserved its verdict on the much-hyped Panamagate case on Thursday with lead judge Asif Saeed Khosa observing that a short order could not be passed for a case such as this.

“26,000 pages have been submitted in this case and we will read each word of them,” observed Justice Khosa, who heads the five-judge bench hearing the petitions against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family. “This is not a case for which a short order can be passed.”

Justice Khosa observed that the court will decide the case only after considering all submitted material and analysing every aspect of the case. He said the court will announce a verdict which will be acceptable to everyone even after 20 years.

Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh observed that the judgment will not be based on populist sentiment.

Legal experts say the judges may take a couple of weeks in writing down the judgment. They say the larger bench seems to be unanimous on the role of investigating agencies, including the National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency. Likewise, findings on the money trail given by Sharif family could be same. There are few chances of the prime minister’s direct disqualification merely on the basis of his speeches on Panamagate.

Legal experts say that biggest suspense of the judgment will be to link the premier with the Panamagate case. The petitioners were unable to submit any document to establish that the London properties were directly owned by the prime minister.  However, the judges may raise a question about ‘conflict of interest’ in their judgment. However, chances of dissenting opinions on some points in the judgment could not be ruled out.

Earlier, when the hearing of the case resumed, the top court questioned the federal government’s recent LNG deal with Qatar. In response to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s counsel Naeem Bukhari’s plea that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government had awarded a 20-year contract for import of LNG with Qatar to reward a prince who had come to the rescue of the ruling Sharif family in the Panama Papers scandal, Justice Gulzar Ahmad observed that if the government signed the deal to bestow favours to Qataris then it will be conflict of interest.

The bench asked the PTI counsel to inform the court about the status of the LNG contract. To this, Bukhari said he is unaware about the complete details of the matter. However, he stated that LNG deal was challenged before the Sindh High Court.

During the proceedings, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan observed that it was yet to be established that the Sharif family’s four apartments in London’s Park Lane neighbourhood were purchased in 1993. The judge also questioned the authenticity of the PTI documents submitted in the court to establish the petitioner’s claims regarding the London properties.

“The court cannot give a judgment on the basis of disputed material,” he remarked. “Are we supposed to dispose the normal law of land and entertain documents which have not come through proper custody?”

However, Justice Khosa observed: “If we do not entertain PTI documents then Sharif family’s documents will also not be accepted on the same basis.” He remarked that if the court applied the same formula then 99.9 per cent of the documents pertaining to the case will have to be ‘thrown away’.

Justice Khosa also observed that it was unfortunate that a trend had developed in society that “justice is whatever has been done in our favour”.  Justice Khosa said that if court issues a verdict against anyone then it is deemed that the judge has been bribed or he is incompetent.

Meanwhile, Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rasheed appeared before the bench and submitted a list of 371 questions which were raised by the SC bench during the Panamagate hearing but the Sharifs’ counsels did not give answers to those queries. “This is the last chance to give punishment to the corrupt people and if the court will not do so then the country will be governed through undemocratic forces,” Rasheed said.

In his concluding remarks, the PTI counsel said Hudabiya Paper Mills scam against the Sharif family was at the centre of money laundering. Before conclusion of the proceedings, PTI chief Imran Khan and Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq came at rostrum and briefly addressed the bench.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2017.

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