Panama Verdict: Supreme Court outs Nawaz Sharif

ISLAMABAD:The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while ordering references in accountability court against him, his children and his son-in-law.

The apex court has ordered the PM to immediately vacate the seat.

The five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa announced the decision, which was reserved on July 21, at 11.30am in Court Room No 1.

A three-member implementation bench of the apex court had concluded hearing the petitioners and defendants on July 21, giving them time to respond to the report of the Supreme Court-sanctioned joint investigation team (JIT) submitted on July 10.

The original five-member bench of the Supreme Court which heard the Panama Papers case issued the final verdict. Justices Asif Saeed Khosa, Ejaz Afzal Khan, Gulzar Ahmed, Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Ijazul Ahsan were present for the hearing.

Special security arrangements were made. Besides police from the Security Division and Operations Division, Rangers and FC personnel and upto 3000 security staff was deployed for the historic verdict.

Entry to the court premises was only allowed through passes issued by the Supreme Court registrar. The media was issued passes through the Supreme Court’s public relations officer. No unauthorised person was allowed to enter the capital’s Red Zone.

The April 20 judgement issued by the larger bench in the Panama Papers case had been split 3-2 among the five judges, with two dissenting notes from Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed.

Justice Ejaz Afzal authored the majority opinion in the 540-page judgement.

The two judges who ruled against PM Nawaz Sharif had said he should be disqualified as he could not be considered ‘honest’ and ‘truthful’ (ameen and sadiq), whereas the other three were in favour of forming a JIT to definitively answer the question of whether the allegations against the prime minister were true or not.

A special bench of the Supreme Court was constituted to examine the case under Section 184/3 of the constitution. The bench comprised the three judges who had prevailed.

The court had further said, “Upon receipt of the reports, periodic or final of the JIT, as the case may be, the matter of disqualification of respondent No 1 [Nawaz Sharif] shall be considered. If found necessary for passing an appropriate order in this behalf, Nawaz Sharif or any other person may be summoned and examined.”

The Supreme Court had on May 6 formed the JIT, putting a senior officer of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in charge.

The six-member JIT’s damning report, submitted after a 60-day investigation that sought answers to 13 questions raised by the Supreme Court’s larger bench, had maintained that prime minister’s family owned assets beyond its known sources of income. It declared that both Hussain and Hassan Nawaz were used as proxies to build family assets.

Consequently, the six-man JIT concluded that it was compelled to refer to sections 9(a)(v) and 14(c) of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999, which deals with corruption and corrupt practices, though such charges are yet to be proven in an accountability court.

The JIT report also highlighted Articles 122, 117, 129 and other sections of the Qanoon-i-Shahadat Order 1984 (Law of Evidence), which places the burden of disproving the allegations on the person facing accusations.

The JIT pointed out failure on the part of the Sharifs to produce the required information that would confirm their ‘known sources of income’, saying that prima facie, it amounted to saying that they were not able to reconcile their assets with their means of income.

The prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, had on the same evening issued a strongly-worded statement on behalf of the PML-N, saying, “JIT report REJECTED. Every contradiction will not only be contested but decimated in SC. NOT a penny of public exchequer involved: PMLN.”

Her tweet followed a press conference conducted by four senior PML-N leaders, who had taken turns to criticise the JIT report as ‘serving Imran Khan’s agenda’. The Sharif family’s legal team’s strategy in subsequent hearings had focused on discrediting the report, the evidence collected and the means used to do so, and raising questions about the impartiality and capability of the six men who had comprised the JIT.

 

     Timeline of JIT’s 60-day investigation

 

Timeline of JIT’s 60-day investigationSC issues orders in Panamagate case, directs formation of JIT

April 26: SC receives names of officials for JIT

May 2: SC forms three-member implementation bench

May 5: SC forms JIT to probe PM’s assets

May 9: JIT begins inquiry into Sharifs’ assets Timeline of JIT’s 60-day investigation JIT presents preliminary report to SC

May 24: Questionnaires sent to PM, sons

May 28: Hussain Nawaz appears before JIT

May 29: SC dismisses Hussain Nawaz’s allegations against JIT

May 30: Hussain Nawaz appears before JIT for the second time

June 2: Hassan Nawaz grilled for seven hours

June 3: PM’s elder son quizzed for the fourth time

June 4: CCTV photograph of Hussain Nawaz at the FJA is ‘leaked’

June 5: JIT examines former Qatari premier’s letter

June 7: JIT informs SC of hurdles in work

June 12: Record tampering issue surfaces

June 13: JIT submits report to SC on obstructions to its work

June 15: PM is questioned by the JIT

June 17: Shahbaz Sharif questioned by JIT

June 19: Apex bench criticizes IB; asks FIA to investigate SECP

June 29: NAB’s first chief appears before the JIT

June 30: SECP chairman distances himself from allegations

July 3: Dar, Hassan Nawaz appear before JIT

July 5: Maryam Nawaz appears before the JIT

July 7: Former Qatari premier asks JIT to question him

July 8: PML-N says will reject JIT report without Qatari prince’s statement

July 10: JIT submits final report to SC