Narrow escape

* Split ruling by SC calls for a joint investigation team of anti-corruption officials along with ISI and Military Intelligence to probe Panama scandal and issue report within 60 days  

Narrow  escape

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) on Thursday ordered an investigation against Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif as it announced the much-awaited verdict of the Panamagate case. However, the five-member bench ruled with a 3-2 majority that there was not yet sufficient evidence to disqualify him.

The judgment was announced on three constitutional petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Sheikh Rasheed and Jamaat-i-Islami seeking disqualification of the PM over alleged tax evasion and money laundering.

“A thorough investigation is required,” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa told the court, presenting the written judgement which opened with the epigraph that launches Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel “The Godfather”: “Behind every great fortune there is a crime”.

“In normal circumstances, such exercise (trial) could be conducted by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), but when its chairman appears to be indifferent and unwilling to perform his part, we are constrained to look elsewhere and therefore, constitute a joint investigation team (JIT),” the bench ruled with majority of three judges, including Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.

The six-member JIT shall comprise a senior officer of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), a representative of NAB, a nominee of Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), a nominee of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and two seasoned officers from Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI).

The JIT has been asked to examine whether PM’s sons in view of their tender ages had the means in the early nineties to possess and purchase the flats; whether sudden appearance of the letters of Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani was a myth or a reality; how bearer shares crystallised into the flats and who, in fact, was the real and beneficial owner of M/s Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited.

The heads of the mentioned institutions shall recommend the names of the nominees for JIT within seven days, which shall be placed before the members of five-judge bench in chambers for nomination and approval.

The court directed PM Nawaz Sharif and his sons Hassan and Hussain Nawaz to appear before JIT as and when required.

The JIT shall investigate the case and collect evidence, if any, showing that the PM or any of his dependents or benamidars owns, possesses or has acquired assets or any interest therein disproportionate to his known means of income.

The JIT shall submit its periodical reports every two weeks before a bench of the court constituted in this behalf. The top court further ruled that the JIT shall submit a final report before the said bench within two months.

PML-N declares ‘victory’; says ready to face probe: Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Thursday termed the Panamagate verdict a "historic victory" for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters that the court had said what the PM had already stated in his letter — that a commission should be constituted on the matter. "We are ready for all kinds of investigation," Asif said.