ISLAMABD: All eyes are on the Supreme Court of Pakistan which is set to start third round of Panamagate proceedings on Monday (today).
A three-judge implementation bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan will take up the matter amid tight security in and outside the court premises.
The legal fraternity is curious as to whether the final report of the joint investigation team (JIT) will attract the Article 62 (1) (f), disqualification of a member of the National Assembly, and as to what will be the bench’s observation in this regard.
The curiosity of general public has also increased who are keenly watching as to how the three-judge implementation bench will react over the JIT report, which has probed the ruling Sharif family’s business dealings abroad.
Legal experts believe that the Panamagate case is ‘mother of all cases’ as it involves several laws, including constitutional provisions, code of criminal procedures, tax laws, anti-money laundering laws, etc. The six-member JIT on July 10 submitted final report comprising more than 5,000 pages, observing that Sharif family’s assets do not match their known sources of income. It maintained that Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif has concealed his business activities while holding the public office and therefore trial under National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 may be initiated against the premier and his sons Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz.
“Failure on the part of all respondents (including Sharif family) to produce the requisite information confirming known sources of income is prima facie tantamount to not being able to justify assets and the means of income,” the JIT’s final report stated, while referring the sections of NAO 1999 for further proceedings.
One of the viable options left for PM Sharif now is to fight legal battle by filing objections over the JIT report before the top court. The ruling family has yet to finalize its legal strategy. Sources said that the family has contacted members of their previous legal team that appeared before a five-judge larger bench in the Panamagate case but none of them is available to plead the case.
Makhdoom Ali Khan, who had advocated PM Sharif in the main proceedings, is engaged in London and not available for the next few weeks.
Likewise, Advocate Shahid Hamid, counsel for Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, PM’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and her husband Safdar, is also abroad till the first week of August.
Sources said that the Sharif family has contacted Advocate Salman Akram Raja but it is yet to be confirmed whether he would appear on behalf of Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz since he too is scheduled to fly abroad next week. Advocate Khawaja Haris is supervising the legal strategy pertaining to the JIT report and is in touch with the PM and his family for the last two months. It is expected that Khawaja Haris will seek time from the court or file objections, which have already been drafted, over the JIT report
Complying with the orders of the implementation bench, the Attorney General office has already submitted transcripts of the speeches of three PML-N leaders, including Khawaja Saad Rafique, Talal Chaudhry and Asif Karmani, who had been allegedly targeting the JIT throughout the investigation process.
According to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry, the party has asked its counsel Naeem Bokhari to advance contentions, which should revolve around PM’s disqualification under articles 62 and 63 of the constitution.
If relied upon, the evidences produced by JIT are enough for PM’s disqualification under Article 62 (1)(f) as the PM has been found guilty of concealing assets in the nomination papers for the 2013 elections and his wealth statement.
Published in Daily Times, July 17th , 2017.