Wednesday May 29, 2024

Prime minister can’t be disqualified on ‘mere assumptions’: SC

By Sohail Khan
January 11, 2017

Justice Ejaz says decision on statements will set a dangerous precedent; PTI counsel asked to satisfy court, stay on wicket and avoid addressing the nation; Bukhari says he’s just ‘stepney’ counsel; Justice Khosa withdraws his observation about articles 62 and 63 of Constitution

ISLAMABAD: Resuming the hearing into the PanamaLeaks case, the Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif could not be disqualified on ‘mere assumptions and without looking into the facts’. The observation came from Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan — one of the five members of the larger bench hearing the case.

Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa presided over the bench. The top court questioned the linkage of statement, given by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the National Assembly on May 16 last year, with the PanamaLeaks issue and observed that it could come to a conclusion after examining the documents and hearing the other side.

PTI's counsel Naeem Bukhari contended that the contradictory statements made by the prime minister on the floor of the house on May 16, 2016 and in his address to the nation on April 5, 2016 established his disqualification.

Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan asked Bukhari how the premier’s speeches could be linked with the PanamaLeaks issue. He also asked how the court could reach a conclusion without examining the documents submitted so far, and hearing the other side.

He said Nawaz Sharif’s speech in parliament was independent and not part of any criminal transaction, so it had nothing to do with the Panama Papers. “We being human beings make statements. The question arises whether statements may become the basis to disqualify someone. If yes, then it would set a dangerous precedent,” Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan remarked.

The learned judge asked Naeem Bukhari to stay on the wicket and avoid playing outside. He asked the PTI counsel to satisfy the court through logic and avoid addressing the nation. Bukhari said he was just ‘stepney’ (extra) counsel, as the real counsel in the case was Hamid Khan. 

Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa observed that the onus would be on the respondents to prove how a huge amount of money was kept alive for more than a quarter of century. Earlier, when the court resumed hearing, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa withdrew his observation about articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution saying, “I should not have given such observations.”

Justice Ejaz asked Naeem Bukhari how he could drag Mian Sharif’s sons for shifting the business and money from one place to another when the whole business in Jeddah, Dubai and later on in London was controlled by him.

Replying, Bukhari said: “This is just a simple question of facts.” Justice Khosa observed that when the learned counsel was stressing that the letter of the Qatari prince should not be considered, he should also look into the objection raised about the documents he had produced before the court on offshore companies.

The court also questioned the source of money invested by Hassan Nawaz, son of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in the London business soon after completion of his education in 1999.

Bukhari told the court that Hassan Nawaz had established a company in the UK during the year 2000. He said in an interview in 1999 Hassan Nawaz had said he was a student with no source of income, adding that the rent of the London flats was also being paid from Pakistan.

Bukhari said in his speech made in parliament, Nawaz Sharif had said his late father had established a factory in Jeddah whose sale proceeds provided funds to Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz to purchase the flats in London. He presented a 249-page investigation report prepared by the then Additional Director General Federal Investigation Agency about the money laundering of the Sharif family in 1996.

He said Rehman Malik had submitted the report to the-then President Muhammad Rafiq Tarar and the-then Chief Justice of Pakistan Ajmal Mian. He prayed the court to evaluate Rehman Malik’s report and decide whether it was true or just trash.

Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed termed the report mere opinion instead of material evidence saying such a report could not be considered as evidence. Later, the court adjourned the hearing for today (Wednesday).