ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has made it clear to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) that the burden to prove the alleged criminal offence of the Sharif family in the Hudabiya Paper Mills case is on its shoulder.
“You have to tell us how criminal offence was committed by the accused and how alleged illegal money was generated and transferred from fictitious accounts to the Hudabiya Paper Mills. The burden of these things is on you,” the top court told NAB’s special prosecutor Imran-ul Haq on Tuesday.
A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam, directed NAB to provide ‘incriminating evidences’ against the Sharif family to establish their criminal offence under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO).
The bench also sought detail of the evidences collected by NAB and later by a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in the Panamagate case. It asked the accountability watchdog to establish money trail to prove the alleged criminal offence.
Top court asks NAB to reveal corruption in Hudaibiya Paper Mills scam
“We are not interested in stories. We are asking about hard evidence which could establish that the accused persons [Sharifs] were involved in a criminal office,” said Justice Qazi Faez Isa, a member of the bench.
On the third hearing of NAB’s plea against the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) three-year old verdict to quash the case, Haq struggled to convince the court as he read out the JIT’s report, which recommended that the Hudabiya case be reopened on the basis of new evidences procured and brought on record by the JIT.
But the bench wondered what kind of new evidences had been collected by the JIT in the Panamagate case, adding that the same material was already available in 2000.
“Neither NAB nor the JIT did anything except making a chart,” the bench added. It asked NAB to provide documents to supplement the JIT’s claims regarding the Hudabiya case.
NAB asks for recess till prosecutor general’s appointment
Another member of the bench, Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel also asked whether the SC gave any opinion on the JIT’s findings.
“We are talking about banking transaction to establish criminal offence in this matter. Statements of witnesses are secondary evidence,” said Justice Isa. “What is the criminal charge in this case?” he asked.
The judge also asked NAB’s attorney whether they summoned the accused to record their statements. Haq replied that they had sent a questionnaire to them but they did not reply.
Justice Isa, however, observed that the 17-year-old Hudabiya case must be concluded now. He also referred Article 17 of the Constitution, which says no person shall be prosecuted or punished for the same offence more than once.
Prithee what ails thou Mr Dar?
The judge also observed that three years ago, the LHC had pointed out the charges in the case as the Sword of Damocles, adding that the same sword was still hanging. Later, the NAB’s attorney read out the statement of former finance minister Ishaq Dar to establish the criminal offence against the Sharif family.
The handwritten statement, given before a magistrate on April 25, 2000, had alleged that Sharif brothers used the Hudabiya Paper Mills as a cover for money laundering during the late 1990s.
However, the court observed that Dar’s confessional statement should have been recorded before the accountability court or the NAB chairman under the law. But it was recorded before a magistrate in April 2000 and law in this regard was amended in July 2000.
The court observed that it would examine the legal status of Dar’s statement.
Meanwhile, NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal appointed Shah Khawar as special prosecutor to plead the Hudabiya case before the apex court. It is expected that Khawar will appear before the SC today (Wednesday) to argue the case. Earlier, the chairman recommended Khawar’s name for the position of prosecutor general.