ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son on Sunday, appearing before the Joint Investigation Team tasked to investigate the Sharif family’s offshore firms and properties abroad, sought more time to record his formal statement.
Hussain Nawaz was grilled by the JIT which comprises financial experts, investigators and representatives from intelligence agencies.
According to reliable sources, the JIT apparently stressed by the accusations of ‘rigorous investigations’ levelled by PM’s cousin Tariq Shafi -- who was probed for hours during last week by the probe team – did not indulge in lengthy questioning with Hussain and gave him two days, till May 30, to submit documents related to the investments and transactions made through British Virgin Islands-based firms Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited.
Of the nearly 90 minutes that Hussain spent inside the Federal Judicial Academy, the secretariat of the JIT, some 30 minutes were wasted after the JIT members refused to allow Hussain’s lawyer Saad Hashmi to sit with him [Hussain] during the questioning process.
Hussain sought more time on three counts -– first, he [Hussain] was not sent a questionnaire before summoning him to record his statement; second, he has been summoned on a short notice of 24 hours, thus, not given enough time to prepare himself; and third, an application filed by him [Hussain] where he has challenged impartiality of two of the six members of the probe team is pending before the Supreme Court.
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Insiders claim that Hussain was told by the JIT that he was not allowed to accompany anyone, including his counsel, while recording his statement and that if he [Hussain] needed so, then he should take permission from the Supreme Court in this regard.
Around 11 in the morning, Hussain along with his lawyer reached the academy. Before his arrival, PML-N leaders including Tariq Fazl Chaudhry, Daniyal Aziz, Hanif Abbasi, Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Ansar Aziz and few party workers reached the venue.
Hussain, while talking to the media, said if his lawyer was stopped from accompanying him then he would inform the media. Hussain complained that he had only been given less than one day to record his statement, as he received the JIT notice on Saturday.
“Neither have I been given any questionnaire nor informed about the modus operandi of the investigations,” Hussain lamented but added he would present his point of view before the JIT but in the presence of his counsel Saad Hashmi.
When asked if he would be comfortable to appear before a probe team whose composition he had already challenged, Hussain replied that the JIT had a legal value so far, as the Supreme Court had yet to hear and decide over his application about impartiality of two JIT members.
Hussain said he had been appearing before the JIT in line with the Supreme Court directions.
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Following the short question-answer session with the media -– where Hussain skipped a number of questions posed by the media -- he along with his lawyer headed for the JIT secretariat.
Outside the judicial academy, PML-N leaders were of the view that it would have been better if Hussain was summoned after a decision by the apex court on his application about the JIT members.
A reliable source confided to The Express Tribune that inside the academy, JIT members refused to question Hussain in the presence of his lawyer. After half-an-hour delay, Hussain agreed to go alone inside the room where the JIT members were sitting.
Hussain was questioned for less than an hour. After he left the venue, the mayor of Islamabad, Sheikh Ansar Aziz, however, claimed that Hussain has recorded his statement.
Hussain had already filed a five-page application with the Supreme Court in which he questioned impartiality of two JIT members and sought an appropriate action from the court over his allegations.
The three-judge bench will hear Hussain’s application on Monday (today). PML-N lead counsel Khawaja Haris will appear before the bench on behalf of Hussain Nawaz.
Hussain has expressed reservations about Bilal Rasool, a representative of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), and Ahmer Aziz, a representative of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
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Hussain was the second high-profile individual to have appeared before the probe body after PM’s cousin Tariq Shafi, who was thoroughly questioned by the JIT.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan has already said, “Not surprising to hear Hussain Sharif reluctant to appear before JIT. His father Nawaz Sharif could not play cricket without his own umpires.”
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb said: “The PML-N holds constitutional institutions of the country in high esteem.”
According to Radio Pakistan, Marriyum has said the appearance of the son of an elected prime minister before the Joint Investigation Team had substantiated the PML-N’s stance in this regard.
She said Hussain Nawaz could have avoided the JIT notice but he appeared before it, although he has expressed reservations over two members of the JIT in his petition filed in the apex court.
Also, the PTI expressed reservations over the way Hussain Nawaz appeared before the JIT, saying “he should be treated as an ordinary accused”.
PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry termed ‘not logical’ the demand of the PM’s son that he would appear before the JIT in the presence of his lawyer.
Chaudhry said the presence of PML-N leaders, including a federal minister and mayor of Islamabad inside the judicial academy, was not appropriate.
“The PM and his sons should be treated as ordinary accused,” he said while appreciating the decision of the JIT to question President National Bank of Pakistan Saeed Ahmad. Ahmad was a central character in the Hudabiya Paper Mills scam.
Chaudhry said it was beyond comprehension why PML-N had been questioning the formation of the JIT, adding the PTI had no objection over it. He said soon the PM would appear before the JIT as an ordinary accused and it’s because of the long struggle of the PTI.
Meanwhile, it is learnt the JIT has started probing Rs1.2 billion Hudabiya Paper Mills scam of money laundering against Sharif family. The team has summoned incumbent CEO National Bank Saeed Ahmad for questioning on last Saturday.
According to Dar's confessional statement, a foreign currency account of Saeed Ahmad, former State Bank deputy governor and current president of the National Bank of Pakistan, was used to deposit huge funds to obtain direct and indirect credit lines.
Legal experts say the JIT now seems to be moving in the realm of Hudabiya scam in view of the fact that Ahmad was summoned to record his statement.
Hussain is the second high-profile individual to appear before the probe body after PM's cousin Tariq Shafi who was thoroughly questioned by the JIT.
In view of a recent directive from the Supreme Court that the JIT should conclude and complete its investigations within the allotted 60-day period, the JIT has been working even on weekends to meet the deadline.
Saiful Malook, who is the counsel in Asia Bibi’s case, said that legal practitioners and bar councils act does not permit an advocate to represent an accused during investigations.
"How was Hussain Nawaz allowed by the JIT to appear and consult his counsel during the investigation. Can lawyers from tomorrow participate accompany their accuse client to police station in investigation," he further questioned.
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