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Web Desk
January 22, 2021

Broadsheet scandal: Opposition expresses reservations on probe under retired Justice Azmat Saeed


Web Desk
Fri, Jan 22, 2021
Former Supreme Court Justice Azmat Saeed. File photo 

LAHORE: The country’s two main Opposition parties have expressed reservations on the investigation panel which is to be headed by former Supreme Court Justice Azmat Saeed to investigate the Broadsheet scandal.

In a statement on Friday, senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal pointed out that the former Supreme Court judge was part of the bench in the Panama Papers case which disqualified Nawaz Sharif.

He was later invited to join the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital's Board of Governors after his retirement by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Secretary-General PPP Nayyer Bukhari said the PTI’s dishonesty has been exposed by the nomination of committee head. “It seems that the government wants to put all the blame on the previous governments.”

Bukhari said the PPP has reservations on the committee, adding, “it is a sensitive matter which should be investigated in a transparent manner.”

Ahsan Iqbal also pointed out that during the Musharraf regime, when the asset recovery agreement was signed with Broadsheet, Justice Azmat had been part of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

According to the Supreme Court's website, Justice Azmat was deputy prosecutor general NAB at Islamabad in the year 2000 for a period of one year and was later appointed special prosecutor NAB in 2001 to prosecute cases before Accountability Courts at Attock Fort and Rawalpindi.

However, it is not clear if the retired judge had played a role, if any, in the formulation and signing of the asset recovery agreement and/or its eventual termination.

On Thursday, the federal government had announced the constitution of an inquiry committee to probe the scandal after a ministerial committee presented its report to the Federal Cabinet.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Senator Shibli Faraz confirmed the development, saying the former apex court judge would also be consulted on the appointment of other members of the Broadsheet probe committee.

"Imran Khan wants to save himself and NAB by appointing Justice Azmat as head of the investigation panel," Ahsan Iqbal said over the development.

The Broadsheet LLC scandal

Earlier, PM Imran Khan had taken notice of the Broadsheet scandal after court documents revealed that Pakistan's anti-graft watchdog had made a deliberate decision to disregard financial damages that may be caused to the said company by entering into a settlement with an unauthorised individual and paid around $1.5 million to the wrong firm.

Read more: Broadsheet scandal is a slap on the face of PTI govt, says Maryam Nawaz

The arbitration court that heard the case — Broadsheet LLC vs. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the National Accountability Bureau — was chaired by Sir Anthony Evans. The court's ruling titled Part Final Award (Liability issues) was handed down in August 2016 under the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Case No. 12912001.

The case details the whole saga from the NAB's establishment to the signing and — three years later — rescinding of an asset recovery agreement with Broadsheet, a breach of contract, illegal payments from Pakistan to the wrong entities; and all that led the court to ascertain that the anti-corruption body was involved in intentional wrongdoing.

NAB and Broadsheet LLC had signed the agreement in 1999, which was breached by Pakistan in October 2003.

Judgment documents had revealed what the arbitration court concluded, that the claimant — Broadsheet LLC — was entitled to recover damages from the respondents — the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the NAB — for the "tort of conspiring to cause unlawful economic loss to the Claimant by entering into the Settlement Agreement dated 20 May 2008 with Mr. James and companies controlled by him and/or in making payments to him or them thereunder".