ISLAMABAD: As the Supreme Court is going to announce the much-awaited Panamagate judgement on Thursday, legal experts believe the chances of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification are slim.
However some experts believe if SC forms a commission for further probe, PM Nawaz may be asked to step down from his position till completion of the inquiry.
“I don’t think the Supreme Court can directly disqualify the prime minister by declaring that he is not Sadiq and Ameen [honest and righteous],” says Supreme Court Bar Association President Rasheed A Rizvi.
He, however, expressed concern over some of the observations made by the judges in the course of hearing which, according to him, created hype among the masses and now the people are expecting the premier’s disqualification.
The judges should speak through their judgments, he added.
Likewise, senior lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan believes it is very difficult to give a judgement against the Sharif family.
PTI lawyer Chaudhry Faisal Hussain on the other hand contends that the Sharif family had concealed facts from the top court and added that the premier has also given misstatements regarding the ownership of the London properties; therefore, he should be disqualified.
Another active lawyer Mahmood Awan says all eyes are on Justice Asif Saeed Khosa. He, however, says that the Supreme Court may define the parameters regarding applicability of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.
There is a consensus among senior jurists that Justice Khosa’s verdict will be unique. Still, there is suspense that who would author the main judgement because every member of the five-member larger bench is writing his own note.
Justice Khosa is regarded as a top jurist of the country in matters of criminal trial, as he has authored a bold declaration by maintaining the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri in the murder of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.
Likewise, he has given rulings against two serving high court judges over their conduct. Justice Khosa has also authored an interesting note by endorsing the disqualification of his class fellow, former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
Legal experts say dissenting and additional notes cannot be ruled out in the Panamagate judgment. It is interesting to see who will author the majority verdict, wherein the top court will give its findings on every query.
It is expected that the majority judgement will form an inquiry commission to verify the documents, submitted by both the parties to the case. Moreover, the larger bench will interpret Articles 62, 63 and 66 of the Constitution.
Similarly, the Supreme Court may ask for reinvestigation of the Hudybia Paper Mills case. The NAB chairman may face a tough time in view of the SC’s upcoming verdict.
The superior judiciary adjudicated a number of cases related to the Sharif family. The family has been successful in getting relief in many matters.
After resuming the charge on March 24, 2009, the restored judiciary headed by former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had decided to take up an appeal against the disqualification of PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif.
On March 31, 2009, a five-member bench, headed by Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani, stayed its February 25 order and restored Shahbaz Sharif as the chief minister of Punjab.
The same bench on May 26, 2009 declared both Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif as qualified to contest elections. In the NRO case, PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif had also moved a petition for striking down the controversial law.
On January 18, 2012, the Supreme Court upheld a verdict of the Lahore High Court and directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to release assets of the Sharif brothers.
A three-member bench, headed by the chief justice himself rejecting the Lahore High Court’s appeal had said keeping the assets in the custody was an unlawful and unconstitutional act.
Earlier, the LHC on October 4, 2011 asked NAB to return to the Sharif family, shares, certificates worth Rs100 million, prize bonds of Rs115 million, documents pertaining to land in Murree, Chaudhry Sugar Mills, Hudabiya Engineering Services, Hamza Shipping Corporation and Ramzan Sugar Mills.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court had accepted Shahid Orakzai’s petition for regular hearing against the qualification of Shahbaz Sharif as Punjab CM. The petitioner had contended that Shahbaz Sharif had vacated the PP-10 seat and resigned from PP-48 seat after becoming the chief executive of the province. “Without any seat in the assembly, he cannot hold the office,” he added.
It is worth mentioning that Sharif’s eligibility case could not be decided by the apex court during his five years tenure.
In November 2011, the SC had also admitted the petitions of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar, PML-N presidents of all provinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan to probe the memo.
Nawaz Sharif himself appeared before the court on December 1, 2011 in the same case and on his first appearance, the court had given him relief by forming a commission to probe the alleged memo.
Three years ago, the Lahore High Court had quashed a NAB reference against the Sharif family in the Hudybia Paper Mills case. Even the LHC declared that NAB could not reinvestigate corruption allegation against them in that matter.
However, the Lahore High Court recently declared the relocation of sugar mills by the Sharif family as illegal.