ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cannot claim privilege under Article 66 on the content of his speech on May 16 last year in parliament, asserted counsel for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) chief Naeem Bukhari in the Supreme Court.
“This is not sustainable,” the rebuttal stated.
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On Thursday, Imran Khan’s counsel submitted 70-page rebuttal in the Panamagate case, a copy of which was obtained by The Express Tribune.
The rejoinder feared that if any member of parliament claimed immunity or privilege after giving an explanation of his conduct, it would amount to perpetrating ‘fraud on parliament’, which would be in violation of his oath of office.
The PTI is seeking to disqualify the PM on charges of alleged misstatement about the money trail for acquiring London flats in parliament.
However, Makhdoom Ali Khan, the counsel for the prime minister, contended that despite some ‘omissions’, the PM did not lie.
Citing dozens of domestic and international precedents for the PM’s statement under Article 66 of the Constitution, Makhdoom contended that the PM had full privilege on his statement in parliament.
But Naeem Bukhari asserted that the privilege did not apply and could not be construed to apply on personal matters of a parliamentarian, adding that Article 66 did not provide protection to a parliamentarian on an explanation or clarification about serious allegations of impropriety, including concealment of assets, made against him.
If the privilege under Article 66 was extended to such matters, it would defeat the purpose of such a clarification.
“The clarification and explanation would be rendered meaningless and illusory thereby defeating the object the member in question being accountable to parliament.”
The rebuttal stated that during the PM’s speech on May 16 last year, he was not exercising his right to freedom of speech in any legislative or policy matter, which would require the extension of Article 66 of the constitution.
Naeem Bukhari contended that Article 5 (2) read with Article 62 (1) and 63 (1) of the Constitution would “in any event override any immunity being claimed by the PM regarding his speech”.
Regarding the credibility of Panama papers, it is stated that the ultimate source of the documents, filed by the PTI relating to the Sharif family’s two offshore companies is the documents released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The website of ICIJ states that PM’s children were approached for comments before the release and publication but no denial was ever issued by them.
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Separate replies submitted by the Sharif family were employed as a device to “try and complicate matters”.
The counsel of the PTI chief submitted that revisions and changing positions of the Sharif family proved that “all versions of events are concoctions and fabrications just to obfuscate the truth.
It is stated that acceptance of an explanation, based on documents such as the ‘Qatari letter’, will encourage corruption and effectively provide an escape route to the individuals involved in corrupt practices.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2017.
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