ISLAMABAD: Appearing before the Supreme Court after eight years, deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday denied that he had illegally transferred 14,398 acres of Auqaf land in Pakpattan to an individual during his tenure as Punjab chief minister more than 30 years ago.
Sharif appeared before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar along with senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders – including Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Raja Zafarul Haq, Ayaz Sadiq.
It was a packed courtroom where a number of PML-N lawyers and parliamentarians stood in the back to witness the proceedings. A large number media persons was present on the SC premises because of the appearance of Sharif as well as former Punjab chief minister Pervaiz Elahi in different cases.
Sharif appeared before the bench, also including Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, after a gap of eight years. He last appeared in the apex court in 2010 as a petitioner in the Memogate case.
SC summons Nawaz Sharif in Pakpattan land allotment case
At the start of the day, the bench heard other public interest cases, especially the matter regarding regularisation of Bani Gala land, wherein the chief justice gave remarks against the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government.
After almost 35 minutes, the bench took up the suo motu case regarding illegal transfer of land in Pakpattan.
Barrister Zafarullah along with Munawar Iqbal Dhuggal came at the rostrum on behalf of Sharif. "Where is Mian Saab", the chief justice asked the defence lawyers.
Upon this, Sharif also came at the rostrum and took out a written note, wherein the facts of the case were mentioned.
Sharif stated that it was a 32-year-old case and there had been nothing on record about his decision to withdraw its earlier notification regarding transfer of the land to Auqaf Department.
Later, the chief justice explained to him the background of the case. He also clarified that suo motu was taken by the former chief justice and that if someone did commit a fraud in the record then there should be an investigation into the matter.
The chief justice also referred to the Ataul Haq Qasmi case wherein the then principal secretary to the prime minister, Fawad Hassan Fawad, had admitted that he approved the summary after receiving Sharif’s verbal consent, adding that the same practice might have happened in this case.
The chief justice also asked if no approval was given, then the three times prime minister and two times Punjab chief minister should be cleared of all charges.
Sharif responded: “In this matter, I am as concerned as you are.”
Responding to a bench query pertaining to the investigation into the matter, the former prime minister requested the apex court to refer the matter to anyone except a joint investigation team (JIT). He said in lighter vein that his experience about the JIT was not pleasant.
“You have shown little anxiety about the formation of JIT,” the chief justice told the PML-N chief after a bit of laughter at Sharif’s quipping subsided.
“It should be left unto him about further investigation to fix the responsibility of this illegal act,” he added.
The chief justice reminded that the court had various options like referring the matter to the Anti-Corruption Department, National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and or a joint investigation team. The bench gave Sharif seven days to propose an alternate manner of probe.
The case stem from the day when Sharif was the chief minister of Punjab. The charges say that Sharif allotted Auqaf Department’s land around the Pakpattan shrine to an individual in violation of the Lahore High Court's (LHC) order.
In 2015, the then chief justice Nasirul Mulk, while hearing a matter related to the land dispute, took suo motu notice of the illegal allotment of the land of the shrine of Hazrat Baba Faridud Din Masud Ganj Shakar, in 1985.
In October, the top court directed Sharif to submit his reply in the matter of withdrawal of the notification, concerning the Auqaf property attached with the shrine.
In response to the court's order, Sharif stated that he did not recall having ever passed any such order. The bench had termed Sharif’s reply vague and asked him to personally come and explain as to why he had de-notified the notification.
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