ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday raised serious questions over the conduct of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) in the ongoing Panamagate probe against the ruling family by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the top court itself.
“For God’s sake, don’t use the IB in this matter,” said Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh while hearing the JIT’s plea, accusing government institutions of hindering its work.
The three-judge special bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, also directed the FIA director-general to launch an inquiry into the allegations that the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) was involved in forgery and tampering with the records of companies owned by the Sharif family as alleged by the JIT.
Legal experts fear the government may use this order against JIT members by issuing them notice(s) to give evidence of forgery by the SECP.
The bench also gave a warning to JIT members that instead of looking here and there, they should focus on their work so that their task could be completed within the stipulated time period.
“Don’t be distracted [by] what the media is saying and what people are saying,” Justice Ejaz told the JIT members.
The bench, while hearing the JIT plea, said they were running on a tight rope of law, adding they faced a storm of abuses in the past and they were facing the same now.
“Our jurisdiction is not being regulated by the media and our judgment is not being regulated by the public opinion,” said Justice Ejaz.
All six JIT members led by Wajid Zia were present in the courtroom. Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf Ali appeared on the court’s notice for legal assistance in the matter.
On Monday, the bench considered the response, submitted by the IB director-general and the SECP chairman regarding the allegations levelled by the JIT against them. The judges took strong exception to the IB’s role in the matter.
They questioned why the IB approached Nadra to get the requisite information about the JIT member and later passed the same information to Prime Minister’s son Hussain Nawaz, who is a private individual.
Justice Azmat went on to ask whether the agency was working for private individuals or the state of Pakistan. He observed the IB committed a crime by passing on the information of JIT members to a private person.
The judge also questioned whether the IB was privatised and under what law it was collecting material on the JIT members and harassing their family members. He asked the AGP to tell IB officials not to obstruct the JIT investigation.
“Also advise your government to not create obstructions in the operation of the JIT and don’t force us to pass any order,” Justice Azmat said. “For God’s sake, don’t use the IB in this matter.”
Justice Azmat asked whether terrorism and white collar crimes had ended in the country as the agencies had been involved in such matter. The judge also asked the AGP if anyone was listening to his advice or he was not giving it at all.
Another judge Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan observed: “Harassment of the JIT members must be stopped forthwith… otherwise, we will have to pass [some] unpleasant orders.”
The judge asked the AGP to tell government officials to ‘remain in their limits’.
The bench questioned that if a crime had been committed by the IB then what action could be initiated. The court also asked the AGP about the extension given to IB Director-General Aftab Sultan, adding if he was given an extension for ‘this very purpose’.
The bench in its order sought legal assistance from the AGP on the IB’s role in the matter and said if needed the IB director-general might be summoned.
Earlier, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry appeared before the bench and pointed out a news report published in an English daily wherein it was stated that the JIT’s allegations had been proved wrong.
Upon this, the bench observed that they were aware of what was happening in the media as they “are taking note of it”.
Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan observed that there was ‘indiscriminate leakage’ by the government to the media and they knew about the purpose behind it, adding the biggest campaign was being run by the government.
Another judge said initially there were eight people targeting the Supreme Court and the JIT on the media but now there were nine. The hearing was adjourned till today (Tuesday).