ISLAMABAD: As the joint investigation team (JIT) prepares to wrap up its investigation into the Sharif family’s offshore properties, it faces a big challenge of unraveling the truth about the two letters provided by a Qatari prince during the course of the Panamagate proceedings in the Supreme Court.
The letters from Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani came confirming his business ties with the ruling Sharif family in a bid to complete the money trail to their properties in London.
But with the six-member probe team – which is to submit its final report in the Supreme Court on July 10 at the end of its 60-day tenure – still unable to record the Qatari prince’s statement, the question looms: Are the two letters a myth or reality?
A debate has already started over what legal implications will be there in case the key testimony of Prince Hamad – who insists on recording his statement at his office and not at the Pakistan mission in Doha as demanded by the JIT – is not obtained.
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The Sharif family’s legal team is eyeing at taking advantage of the situation where the statement of a key witness would be missing.
A member of the team told The Express Tribune that it would be a good ground to contend before the Supreme Court that the JIT had missed out on the most important link with respect to the money trail.
A final strategy on this particular point will be devised by Khawaja Haris, a senior member of the legal team who is keenly observing the events.
It is leant that the Sharif family is very satisfied with the legal strategy devised by Haris regarding their appearance before the JIT.
Those close to the ruling family confided to The Express Tribune that the Prime Minister and his family are very confident over the last couple of days which is surprising for them as well.
The top court in its majority judgment on April 20 asked the JIT to probe “whether the sudden appearance of the letter of Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani is a myth or a reality”.
To fulfill this task, the JIT gave a few options to the Qatari prince for recording his statement. Despite efforts from Salman Alsam Butt, the former attorney general, and Saifur Rehman, a close aide of the Sharif family, the prince did not avail any of the options for recording his statement to prove the money trial to the Landon flats owned by the Sharif family.
The Qatari prince is reported to have shown willingness to record his statement at his palace in Doha but the JIT offered him to do so at the Pakistani embassy. However, he declined the JIT’s offer, saying that laws do not permit him to do so.
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Some legal experts believe that the JIT is acting on the directives of the Supreme Court which had, on May 29, asked the JIT to disregard the Qatari prince’s letter if he did not appear in person before them. The investigating body has sent him at least two letters, requesting him to personally appear to record his statement.
Former senior law officer Shah Khawar believes that the JIT is not bound to visit Al-Thani’s residence under the law. Likewise, it was the duty of the ruling family to bring their witness before the JIT.
“If the prince does not come to verify the contents of his letters, it will be established that his communication [letters] to the top court of the country is just a myth,” Khawar opines.
However, the ruling family’s legal team that was part of the hearings in the Supreme Court believes that the family could use it to their huge advantage if the JIT is unable to record statement of his main witness.
Legal eagles think that the JIT may again seek guidance over the elusive Al-Thani testimony from the apex court which has the authority to extend the time and allow the JIT to visit at his palace in this regard.
A senior official believes that it will be interesting to see whether the court allows the Sharif family to submit their objections to the final JIT report, adding that if the court allows the respondents, then it will be a huge benefit for them. “Both the sides are smartly playing their cards,” says the official.
The five-judge larger bench of the apex court had observed in its April 20 verdict that after the receipt of the final report from the inquiry panel, the matter of the PM’s disqualification shall be considered.
“If found necessary for passing an appropriate order in this behalf, respondent No 1 [PM Nawaz] or any other person may be summoned and examined,” said the order.
It is learnt that the legal team of the Sharif family may raise objection to the implementation bench and make a request for the constitution of a larger bench for giving a final verdict in the Panamagate case. However, their legal team will evolve a final strategy after going through the final JIT report.