Deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday, recording his final statement in the Avenfield reference, said strained civil-military relations and the inclusion of military officers in the JIT played an integral role in the final report submitted by the investigation team.
The ouster premier, daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar were present in the accountability court to record their statement.
"There are and always have been reservations against the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) members," said Nawaz while referring to the inclusion of Brigadier Noman Saeed in the JIT, who was also part of the committee formed to probe Dawn Leaks.
Court asks Nawaz if he could defend his position
One of the most aggressive members – Brigadier Nauman Saeed from ISI – was a “source employee” under a contract which is not recognized as legal, and officially neither his association with ISI nor his pay is reflected in any official record, Nawaz read.
"It may be added here that Brigadier Nauman Saeed was also one of the members of the inquiry committee which has inquired into the issue relating to Dawn leaks which had further heightened the civil-military tensions."
Nawaz, for the first time, also interacted with accountability court Judge Bashir, even though Judge Bashir has presided over the hearings since the first day, they had no prior engagement.
Nawaz read out his response to the 128-point questionnaire prepared by the court. Commenting on the formation of the JIT, made to probe the corruption allegations against the Sharif family, the deposed premier said the inclusion of members from Military Intelligence (MI) and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was unnecessary and inappropriate.
He also added that the court's decision should not be based on Mutual Legal Assistance (MLAs) requests the investigation team asked for, and in some cases, received from foreign countries.
The PML-N Quaid also raised reservations regarding Bilal Rasool — a representative from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) — as a member of the JIT as Rasool is the nephew of Mian Mohammad Azhar, who alongside his immediate family members, is an ardent supporter of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Nawaz also expressed his reservations over Ahmer Aziz inclusion in the JIT. A representative of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Aziz was also part of a National Accountability Bureau investigation that probed Hudaibiya Paper Mills during Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s regime. Nawaz further added that JIT member Irfan Mangi has a case pending against him in the top court.
Criticising JIT head Wajid Zia, the deposed prime minister said Zia employed his cousin's British law firm - Akhtar Raja of Quist Solicitors - to help investigate the corruption allegations, and that his 'righteousness' is evident by his decision.
"Making JIT report an integral part of the references goes against the SC's directives," Nawaz read. In connection to the Avenfield apartments, he said, "I had no role in the acquisition of any real or beneficial title of Avenfield properties or providing funds for any such acquisition, and this fact is aptly demonstrated by the contents of the earlier civil miscellaneous application (CMA) submitted."
The three-time prime minister added that none of the documents produced by the prosecution connected him to any money trail leading to the Avenfield apartments. "I was never involved or associated in any capacity in the acquisition of any real or beneficial title of the Avenfield apartments (or providing means or funds)."
Nawaz further stated that the JIT report cannot be read as evidence as it remains a report of an investigation agency, and is not admissible as evidence. "None of the volumes of the report stands as exhibited as evidence as only a selected portion was allowed to be exhibited in court," he read.
"The JIT carried out a one-sided investigation. They collected selected documents from departments in institutions," he added. "None of the MLAs sent by the JIT to UK, BVI, and UAE have been produced in court, and the court's decision should not be based on the MLAs produced or not produced."
Speaking on Tariq Shafi's affidavits, Nawaz said, "His affidavits cannot be used against me under any provision of law. Any use of the contents of the two affidavits would tantamount to gross violation of Article 10-a of the Constitution - the right to fair trial."
The ousted premier also said that he had no connection and was never associated or involved with Gulf Steel Mills.
Addressing claims that Shehbaz Sharif and Shafi rejected signing an agreement in 1980, Nawaz said, "I can't say anything, as no such denial took place in my presence nor have Tariq Shafi or Shehbaz Sharif have been produced as witnesses in the case to depose against me."
Detaching himself completely from Hudaibiya Papers Mills, Nawaz and Maryam said the company was run by Mohammad Sharif, Maryam's grandfather.
In the questionnaire, the court had inquired the former PM to explain Maryam’s source of income – how could she acquire and possess the London properties in light of her income tax, wealth tax and wealth statements. Hussain and Hassan are also required to answer the same question.
Nawaz's stance was also sought on certain documents submitted by accused Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz on January 26, 2017, in the Supreme Court. He was also asked to elaborate upon the money trail to the London properties.
Avenfield reference: Sharifs get record of SC’s Panamagate proceedings
The ousted premier was also asked about evidence submitted by Zia, according to which Maryam was the beneficial owner of Nielson and Nescoll, the two offshore companies that own the Avenfield apartments.
Nawaz was also asked to clarify anomalies and contradictions in affidavits submitted by his cousin Tariq Shafi, who used to run Gulf Steel Mills. The court also asked to clarify an affidavit submitted by Sharif himself according to which Gulf Steel Mills was set up with zero equity and 100 per cent loan.