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December 10, 2016

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Panama Leaks Case: Live from Courtroom No1

Panama Leaks Case: Live from Courtroom No1

Islamabad: The Sharifs’ supporters were happy in the Courtroom No1 on Friday after the Panama Leaks case was adjourned by the Supreme Court bench till the first week of January, 2017. Many including Minister for State and Chairman Privatization Mohammad Zubair and MNA Talal Chaudhry greeted each other in the hall. 

The ninth hearing into the Panama case concluded with a worthy judge’s observation that the petitioners were apparently letting them down. The observation came soon after Naeem Bokhari, PTI’s lead counsel, said they not only opposed 'formation of judicial commission' but also will 'boycott its proceedings.' This moment stunned many including senior lawyers, politicians, media persons and civil servants who were witnessing the proceedings. "Is he pressurising the top court," a senior anchor whispered into this correspondent's ears. Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Sirajul Haq stood up following Sheikh Rashid who took up the podium. Silence prevailed. Next moment Justice Azmat Sheikh observed: “I’m disappointed from parties’ [petitioners in particular] response.” Perhaps the remarks came after petitioners continued their meandering arguments despite the top court's order to come up with solid documentary proof to prove the allegations. 

Two of five parties (Awami Muslim League and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) involved in this historic case categorically broke their promises when it comes to form the judicial commission, said independent lawyers who witnessed Thursday’s proceedings. PTI, AML, Sharifs, JI and Tariq Asad have given their commitment that they would facilitate the apex court -- either it forms the commission or decides the case on its own. “When Sharifs, JI, etc accepted SC’s desire to form the commission -- then why not PTI and AML -- there seems politics,” top lawyer Salman Akram Raja put this question before the journalists in the fully packed courtroom. Senior lawyer almost witnessed all the proceedings in this case.

By and large counsel for the respondents kept engaged worthy judges, and to some extent succeeded in convincing them on one of three key issues during the hearings of this case which continued six weeks. But one of nine days was the day of PTI’s counsel where he gave his best arguments and almost shifted burden of proof on the respondents. Many lawyers praised Naeem Bokhari. 

The turning point came in this case when Salman Butt, counsel for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, started his arguments. He almost lived up to expectations of his client but perhaps could not completely satisfy worthy judges in this case. This was the time when the bench expressed its desire to form a 'judicial commission' to find answers of all tricky questions posed by the petitioners equally endorsed by the top court. Three key questions -- issue of dependency of Maryam Nawaz Sharif, contradictory statements by the Sharifs and money trails from Dubai to Saudi Arabia and then London --continue to haunt the parties involved in this case. 

PTI's entire leadership, Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi in particular, witnessed all the proceedings. Imran Khan even helped out Naeem Bokhari standing in front of podium. 

All counsel consumed around 24 hours to argue in favour of their clients; almost 65% of total time was consumed by the petitioners’ lawyers. All parties -- JI, PTI, AML, Tariq Asad and Sharifs -- could not bring the substantive documentary proofs. Financial institutions also came under harsh criticism during the course of hearings in this case.   

Coming up with arguments like “boycotting the proposed commission,” Naeem Bokhari also recalled some meandering arguments as saying: “My Lord, we all live in the womb of time -- and judged, both by the present and the past.”

Similarly Salman Butt has also been insisting upon that his client (Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) was neither named in Panama Papers nor there was any evidence against his alleged wrongdoings. PM Sharif should not be a part of this commission, he argued time and again. Interestingly, Akram Sheikh, Counsels for Prime Minister’s children -- Hussain Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz -- could not present his arguments as the bench was dissolved due to upcoming retirement date of Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali. 

But Akram Sheikh categorically informed the court that he has all the documentary proofs worthy judges asked for.  Now this case will be taken up in second week of January 2017 when the than new Chief Justice Saqib Nisar will re-form the bench for this historic case. 

                         

 

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