Ex-SC judge Azmat Saeed to head Broadsheet Inquiry

Members of probe panel will be appointed after consultation


Rizwan Shehzad   January 22, 2021
Former Supreme Court judge Azmat Saeed Sheikh. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:

Former Supreme Court judge Azmat Saeed Sheikh will lead the inquiry commission to examine the circumstances relating to the Broadsheet agreement and subsequent arbitration proceedings that resulted in substantial loss to the national exchequer, said Information Minister Shibli Faraz on Thursday.

Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry also said that “Prime Minister Imran Khan has appointed Justice (retd) Azmat Saeed as head of the Broadsheet inquiry committee”, adding that the remaining members of the committee would be appointed with Justice (retd) Saeed’s consultation.

Justice Saeed has heard numerous high-profile cases; he was part of the Panama Papers bench that disqualified the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif as member of the National Assembly.

His profile on the Supreme Court website states that he was appointed as deputy prosecutor general of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) at Islamabad in 2000.

It says that he was also appointed as NAB’s special prosecutor in 2001 to prosecute cases before accountability courts at Attock Fort and in Rawalpindi.

On Tuesday, the federal cabinet formed the inquiry committee, which would also include a senior officer from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), a senior lawyer appointed by the prime minister and an official of the office of the Advocate General for Pakistan, with directions to present its report and recommendation in 45 days.

While talking to media at the Parliament House after a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Thursday, Faraz said that the notification of the inquiry committee on Broadsheet issue would be issued in a day or two.

The information minister also said that the issue had surfaced now but it started in 2000, adding that the inquiry committee would look into every aspect of the scandal. “All Broadsheet characters will be exposed,” Faraz said.

The newly-formed inquiry commission is empowered to summon any individual and call for the record from any organisation and department as it deems fit. Following the last cabinet meeting, the information minister had said that the purpose of the inquiry is to establish facts, determine accountability and learn lessons for the future litigation and arbitration proceedings.

The announcement of the inquiry committee evoked memories of the joint investigation team (JIT) formed and tasked with presenting its report within 60 days, after the Panama Papers scandal – the leak of 2.6TB data or 11.5 million documents taken from a Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca in April 2016 – had emerged.

Faraz, who also heads a ministerial committee formed earlier to look into the Broadsheet scandal, had told reporters that it was evident from the facts entailing Broadsheet and the International Asset Recovery Limited (IAR); from the start of the agreements to the purported settlements in 2007-08; arbitration conducted, especially between 2009 till 2018 (Liability Award & Quantum Award); and various deals made during this period for political exigencies that the matter required detailed forensic investigation by experts.

The minister had added that the cabinet also determined the terms of references (TORs) for the inquiry committee, which stated that there were five parts which the inquiry committee would examine and fix responsibility on all involved and consequential beneficiaries.

Surprising as it may seem, Broadsheet arbitration decision came in 2016 – the same year when the Panama papers scandal had rocked Pakistan yet nobody knew about it until a court in the United Kingdom recently ordered $28.7 million payment to Broadsheet by debiting it from Pakistan High Commission’s account in London.

The 2016 arbitration judgment for the liability award came but neither the JIT constituted to probe Panama papers scandal nor the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) or the courts conducting trial of Sharif and his family members ever heard about the scandal, involving assets worth millions of dollars

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