ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday admitted for hearing the National Accountability Bureau’s request to set aside the judgment delivered by the Lahore High Court (LHC) in 2014, quashing the case of Hudaibya Paper Mills after which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members were acquitted.
Meanwhile, the Accountability Court (AC) of Islamabad issued bailable arrest warrants for Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar after he did not appear before the court in a corruption reference regarding his assets beyond known sources of income with 91 times increase in wealth.
NAB’s Prosecutor General Waqas Qadeer Dar filed a civil petition for leave to appeal under Article 185(3) of the Constitution against the judgment passed by the Lahore High Court on March 11, 2014 in the Hudaibya Paper Mills case.
The anti-graft body made Nawaz Sharif, his brother and Chief Minister Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif, Mian Muhammad Abbass Sharif (late), Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Shamim Akhtar and Sabiha Abbass, Mariam Safdar, the Federation of Pakistan and Judge Accountability Court No IV, Rawalpindi, as respondents.
The appeal requested the apex court to examine the legality, and propriety of the impugned judgment of March 11, 2014.It was contended that the judgment was not passed in consonance with the dictums laid down by the apex court.
NAB further contended that the LHC’s referee judge was not competent to set aside the findings of the high court, in which NAB had been allowed to re-initiate investigations againstagainst Sharif family members.
The anti-graft body submitted that the JIT, which was constituted by the apex court for probing Panama matter, had collected further incriminating material regarding Hudaibya Paper Mills. It said that it cannot be debarred or restrained from proceeding further with the investigation; hence, it would be appropriate to set aside the impugned judgment to the extent of re-investigation in order to fortify and corroborate the material collected by the JIT.
The NAB further submitted that in light of the JIT recommendation, the Supreme Court in its July 28 verdict in Panama Papers case had directed NAB to reopen the case.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Hudaibiya Paper Mills money laundering reference was initiated on the basis of an April 25, 2000 confessional statement of Ishaq Dar, wherein he admitted his role in laundering money to the tune of $14.86 million on behalf of Sharifs through fictitious accounts in 1990s.
The witness was, however, pardoned by the then NAB chairman. LHC’s referee judge Justice Sardar Shamim had quashed the reference on March 11, 2014 on the grounds that if a re-investigation was allowed against Sharif family, it would provide an opportunity to the investigators to pad up lacunas.
The learned High Court had quashed the case as the PML-N continued to claim that Dar's statement was taken under duress.
Later, NAB had decided not to challenge the high court’s decision. Nawaz Sharif was not named in the interim reference filed in March 2000. However, in the final reference against the Hudaibiya Paper Mills, approved by then chairman NAB Khalid Maqbool, the Bureau had accused Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Abbas Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Shamim Akhtar, Sabiha Abbas and Maryam Nawaz.
The Hudaibiya Paper Mills case came to the limelight when a five-member SC bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, took up PTI’s plea to disqualify Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on charges of facilitating Sharif family in alleged laundering of Rs1.2 billion.
On Sep 15, NAB Prosecutor General Waqas Qadeer Dar assured the Supreme Court that it will be filing the appeal in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case. The PG gave the assurance during the hearing of Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rasheed's petition in the court seeking re-opening of the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case.
The decision of closing Hudaibiya case was taken by NAB authorities on the grounds that earlier in October 2011, a Rawalpindi division bench of the LHC restrained the accountability court from proceeding in the matter after Nawaz Sharif and members of his family challenged the revival of the references and requested the court to quash the cases.
In the case of accumulation of assets against Dar, the AC on September 14 issued summons for Dar directing him to appear before the court on September 20. During the proceedings, AC judge Muhammad Bashir issuing arrest warrants for Dar and directed him to submit one million rupees surety bonds with one personal guarantee. AC directed Dar to appear before the court on September 25.
At start of hearing, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor Imran Shafique submitted before the court a compliance report for delivering summons to Dar. As per report, a driver of Ishaq Dar namely Imran received these summons.
A staff officer of Ishaq Dar told the court that the federal minister is out of country at the moment. He had a confirm seat in an airplane for his return to the country but he could not come back due to some engagements.
At that instance, NAB prosecution requested the court to issue warrants of arrest for Dar. AC in its order said that all the legal formalities regarding service of summons were fulfilled; hence, this court issued warrants of arrest for the accused.
Journalist covering court proceedings Wednesday once again faced difficulties when police officials restrained cameramen from entering court premises while reporter to enter the courtroom. Later reporters were permitted to enter courtroom. AC registrar office issued directions to the reporters not to have an eye contact with the judge as it will be tantamount contempt of court.
After hearing of this case when journalist brought this thing to the knowledge of the court, judge said that the court issued no such directions.
On September 8, NAB filed three corruption references against Sharif family and one against Dar for having assets beyond known sources of income, in compliance with the Supreme Court judgment dated July 28.
Reference against Dar reveals that NAB has yet to determine role of the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP)’s president and others in connection with their alleged involvement in aiding and abetting the finance minister for a 91 times increase in his assets within a short span of time.
As per reference, the accused persons were given ample opportunities to explain and provide evidence regarding the accumulation of these assets that they did not.
Request for mutual legal assistance has been forwarded by the JIT and its response is awaited, which will be placed before this court, when received from foreign jurisdiction. So under this scenario, this reference may be treated as interim reference.
References were filed after NAB chairman approved these on September 7 in an executive board meeting. Meanwhile, NAB has stopped former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his children from sale or transfer of their properties. In this regard NAB Lahore has written a letter to Nawaz on September 18.