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SC raises 13 questions and orders to form JIT in a week to probe allegations against Nawaz and his sons Hassan and Hussain; says contradiction with sons’ statements does not prove any of PM’s speeches false; JIT led by FIA official and comprising NAB, SECP, SBP, ISI, MI officials will submit report in 60 days; Justice Khosa, Justice Gulzar give dissenting notes; say PM no more ‘Sadiq, Ameen’; ECP should issue his disqualification notification; Justice Ijaz says courts decide cases on basis of facts not speculations
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) in its verdict in the PanamaLeaks case raised 13 questions regarding the money trail, ownership of Mayfair Flats in London and offshore companies and ordered to constitute a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that would probe the allegations of financial irregularities and money laundering allegedly involving Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family for establishing properties abroad.
A five-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa and comprising Justice Ijaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh and Justice Ijazul Ahsen, announced a reserved judgment in the petitions, seeking disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for allegedly lying on the floor of parliament.
The 549-page judgment delivered by a majority of 3 to 2 with dissenting notes of Asif Saeed Khan Khosa and Gulzar Ahmed, ruled that most material questions had remained unanswered or answered insufficiently by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the Respondent No.1 and his children.
As all the judges had given their separate notes, even Justice Ijaz Afzal, a member of the bench from the majority view, expressed his dissatisfaction with the explanation offered by Respondent No 1 (Nawaz Sharif) and his children regarding the mode and manner in which the said properties came in their possession and what were the sources of funds utilised for acquisition of the same.
Justice Gulzar Ahmad in his note observed that being faced with this scenario, the court could not be expected to sit as a toothless body and become a mere spectator but it had to rise above screen of technicalities and give a positive verdict for meeting the ends of justice and also to safeguard the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan.
Justice Ijaz Afzal remarked that the courts decide the cases on the basis of facts and evidence not on speculations.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed of Awami Muslim League and Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Sirajul Haq had filed petitions in the apex court, praying for disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The verdict ruled that an investigation was required to probe the matter and ordered the formation of a JIT headed by an official from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) which would submit its report within 60 days. The prime minister thus survived for the time being, at least.
The court directed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his sons, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz, Respondents No 1, 7 and 8 to appear and associate them with the JIT as and when required.
The court ruled that upon receipt of the reports, periodic or final of the JIT as the case might be, the matter of disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Respondent No 1 would be considered.
The judgment ruled that a thorough investigation was required in this regard and ordered the formation of JIT within a week to probe the instant matter. Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed with their dissenting notes stressed for the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for not being honest.
Justice Khosa began with his dissenting notes with the popular 1969 novel ‘The Godfather’ by Mario Puzo recounting the violent tale of a mafia family and the epigraph selected by the author was fascinating:
“Behind every great fortune there is a crime”. Justice Khosa held that Respondent No 1 had not been honest to the nation, to the representatives of the nation in the National Assembly and to this court in the matter of explaining possession and acquisition of the relevant properties in London.
He directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to issue a notification of disqualification of Nawaz Sharif from being a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament) with effect from the date of announcement of the present judgment.
Similarly, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, in his dissenting note, said with dismay that Nawaz Sharif did not make a clean breast and provided nothing to the court where it could have fairly concluded that Nawaz Sharif had nothing to do with these four London Flats.
He observed that there was a duty cast upon Nawaz Sharif as holder of public office to satisfy this court and the nation of the country (which being their fundamental right) about the true facts regarding the four London flats, which he miserably failed to do so and thus what emerged was that he had not been ‘Sadiq and Ameen’ in terms of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.
“It is thus declared that Nawaz Sharif has not been Honest and Ameen in terms of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution and thus rendered himself disqualified from holding the office of a Member of National Assembly of Pakistan and ceasing to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan”, Justice Gulzar remarked.
The majority verdict, authored by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, puts the questions as to how the Gulf Steel Mill came into being; what led to its sale; what happened to its liabilities; where its sale proceeds ended up; how they reached Jeddah, Qatar and the UK; whether respondents No. 7 and 8 in view of their tender ages had the means in the early Nineties to possess and purchase the flats.
The court further questioned as to whether the sudden appearance of the letters of Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani was a myth or a reality; how bearer shares crystallised into the flats; who, in fact, was the real and beneficial owner of M/s Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, how Hill Metal Establishment came into existence; where the money for Flagship Investment Limited and other companies set up/taken over by Respondent No 8 (Hassan Nawaz) came from, and where the working capital for such companies came from and where the huge sums running into millions gifted by Respondent No 7 (Hussain Nawaz) to Respondent No 1 (Nawaz Sharif) was dropped in from, which went to the heart of the matter and needed to be answered. Therefore, a thorough investigation in this behalf was required.
The court held that in normal circumstances, such exercise could be conducted by the NAB but when its chairman appeared to be indifferent and even unwilling to perform his part, they were constrained to look elsewhere and therefore, constitute a JIT headed by a senior officer of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), not below the rank of Additional Director General who shall head the team having firsthand experience of investigation of white collar crimes and related matters, a representative of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), a nominee of the Security & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) familiar with the issues of money laundering and white collar crimes, a nominee of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
The court directed that seasoned officers of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) nominated by its Director General and a seasoned officer of Military Intelligence (MI) nominated by its Director General be included in the JIT.
The court directed that heads of the aforesaid departments/institutions would recommend their nominees for the JIT within seven days from today, which would be placed before it in chambers for nomination and approval.
The JIT shall investigate the case and collect evidence, if any, showing that Respondent No 1 (Nawaz Sharif) or any of his dependents or benamidars owns, possesses or has acquired assets or any interest therein disproportionate to his known means of income.
The court directed Nawaz Sharif, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz, Respondents No 1, 7 and 8 to appear and associate themselves with the JIT as and when required, adding that the JIT might also examine the evidence and material, if any, already available with the FIA and NAB relating to or having any nexus with the possession or acquisition of the aforesaid flats or any other assets or pecuniary resources and their origin.
The court directed that the JIT would submit its periodical reports every two weeks before a bench of this court constituted in this behalf.
"The JIT shall complete the investigation and submit its final report before the said bench within a period of sixty days from the date of its constitution”, the verdict ruled and added that the bench thereupon might pass appropriate orders in exercise of its powers under Articles 184(3), 187(2) and 190 of the Constitution including an order for filing a reference against Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif, Respondent No. 1 and any other person having nexus with the crime if justified on the basis of the material thus brought on the record before it.
The court ruled that upon receipt of the reports, periodic or final of the JIT, as the case might be, the matter of disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Respondent No. 1 shall be considered.
“If found necessary for passing an appropriate order in this behalf, Respondent No 1 or any other person may be summoned and examined”, says the verdict.
The court held that Chief Justice of Pakistan would be requested to constitute a special bench to ensure implementation of this judgment so that the investigation into the allegations might not be left in a blind alley.
While dealing with the alleged contradiction in the prime minister’s addresses, the ruling said that the mere contradiction between his speeches and statements of Hussain and Hassan does not prove any of his speeches false or untrue unless it is determined after examining and cross-examining both of them that their statements are correct and true. Where it is not determined that statements of Hussain and Hassan are correct and true, no falsity could be attributed to Nawaz Sharif’s speeches.
The judgment said that political excitement, political adventure or even popular sentiments real or contrived may drive any or many to an aberrant course but “we have to go by the law and the book. Let us stay and act within the parameters of the Constitution and the law as they stand, till the time they are changed or altered through an amendment.”