December 10, 2016Print : Top Story
ISLAMABAD: Though the Supreme Court’s (SC) timely intervention helped avert a serious political crisis in early November, it is helpless to resolve such a complex riddle of Panama Papers without proper investigation of some vague claims by both the sides by a professional anti-corruption body.
Both sides want the apex court to pen down a verdict at the earliest without realising the fact that before passing a conclusive judgment on allegations of white collar crimes or corruption, the superior judiciary judges need comprehensive reports of detailed investigations by relevant experts.
There is no doubt that the ruling PML-N has not succeeded in answering most of the key questions raised by the five-member bench or the media from time to time during the proceedings. Though Akram Sheikh, counsel for the three children of the prime minister, has yet to make his detailed arguments, there is nothing on record which can answer the key questions repeatedly pointed out by different members of the bench. However, it remains a fact that the apex court could not pass a conclusive judgment convicting any individual merely on the basis of claims of one side and inability of the other side to prove certain transactions until some unavoidable documentary evidence is made available to the court or a high-level investigation team formed by the court gives its report regarding missing links and about truth regarding wrongdoings being alleged.
The apex court bench has passed some decisive remarks during Wednesday hearing regarding deficiency in documentary evidence submitted by both the sides and even remarked that no one could be sent home on the basis of the evidence. The bench gave the clearest hint to major complainant, PTI, that in the given conditions, the benefit of doubt would go to the accused (prime minister and his children). It is important that PTI had declared more than once whatever documents it had, had already been submitted to the court and it had nothing to present more. The apex court made observations that evidence submitted were insufficient and that benefit of doubt would go to the accused after PTI’s declaration that it had nothing more to add to already submitted evidence. The court was clearly inclined to set up some commission which can also take help of white-collar crimes investigators and forensic experts but PTI’s another categorical declaration that it will boycott any commission gave a whole new direction to the Panama Papers case on Friday.
Many allegations and the questions still unanswered by the ruling family may become serious and established charges after scrutiny by a commission and a proper investigation. The latest stance of PTI however confused many who were closely monitoring developments regarding Panama Papers as this stance would only help Sharifs. Many strong allegations against Sharifs would remain unproved without a proper inquiry by a commission or a thorough investigation. Consequently the court will have no option but to dismiss the petitions containing serious and strong charges and clear contradictions.
The five-member bench which was hearing Panama Papers case so far was of the view that PTI must come up with strong and undeniable evidence that Sharifs owned Park Lane flats before 2006. There is no such evidence on record. The only unverified papers produced by PTI on this count are some court orders in Al-Towfeeq Investment Bank loan default case in London in late 1990s. However, PML-N denies these papers and the information they provide. Counsels of Sharifs also argue that these orders are not final judgment and sentences in the orders implying three members of the Sharif family (late Mian Muhammad Sharif, late Mian Abbas Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif) as owners of the Park Lane flats are wrong and only the understanding of the lawyer of the opponent party. The bench also wanted that PTI might come up with solid evidence of any wrongdoing or corruption by the Sharif family however so far no evidence on this count was submitted to the court. During the proceedings of the case, PTI mostly relied on the contradiction between the speeches of the prime minister and the written responses submitted by the Sharif family lawyers in the apex court.
The PTI leaders and activists believe that the court can send the prime minister home on the basis of these contradictions as clearly the chief executive of the country was untruthful in his public statements.
On the other hand, the apex court bench was also clear that Sharif family, which had admitted ownership of Park Lane flats and the offshore companies, remained unable to establish the money trail for the funds which were used to set up these offshore companies which already owned London flats. The documents so far submitted to the court or the arguments forwarded merely narrate a story of ‘creation’ of money in 1974 and its movement up to year 2006 and no documentary evidence whatsoever establishing the movement of money has so far been produced. Sharif family also failed to produce any document which can establish that it really bought London flats only in 2006 and that it never owned them before 2006. The trust deed produced by the Sharifs is a private document and was never registered anywhere in UK. Similarly some missing links are filled with the statement of a Qatari prince but all the members of the bench were not ready to accept the letter as evidence without fulfillment of the legal formalities and production of supporting evidences.