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July 17, 2017

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JIT report’s examination process in SC starts today

JIT report’s examination process in SC starts today

ISLAMABAD: A strong legal team of the Sharif family has braced up for the long-haul fight in the Supreme Court but it may not open on Monday followed by a quick judgment as expected by many. Parties to the case have nurtured hopes in accordance with their wishes.

Monday is likely to be the decisive day to set in motion a process that will be pursued in dealing with the exhaustive report of the Panama Joint Investigation Team (JIT). But it is unexpected to be the D-Day.

The Sharif family’s lawyers are expected to seek time to study the voluminous report and file reply. They are not in a position to respond to each and every allegation penned down in the JIT findings because of their expansive nature. If the probe body took sixty days to prepare its determinations for which work had been started even before it was given this assignment, the defence attorneys need much more time to reply only after going through each and every part and document incorporated in nine volumes, copies of which they have been provided. The tenth volume, dealing with the Mutual Legal Assistance correspondence, has been kept under wraps as replies are still awaited from some foreign countries to the letters written by the JIT.

The respondents have abundant objections to raise on the JIT report ranging from its very strong and unfair language against certain members of the Sharif family to truncating their testimonies, using only the choice portions of their statements while skipping their vital parts. The transcripts of the recorded depositions have not been included verbatim in the report, giving rise to fears about selectivity.

The Sharif family is also said to be exploring different options including submission of an application to Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar to form a new bench instead of the present one. If it did so, the top judge will be required to take a decision on this plea as required by the law. It is the prerogative and exclusive authority of the chief justice to form benches.

The present three-member bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, may also choose to refer the matter to the chief justice for establishment of a larger bench or sending the case to another panel, according to constitutional brains.

All these aspects are yet to unfold as the Sharif family’s lawyers have not yet publicly spoken their mind. They are still firming up their strategies in different legal spheres.It is not precisely clear as to who will defend the JIT findings before the apex court when the team stands disbanded after completing its 60-day life. However, it is believed that the JIT members may be asked questions if and when necessary to clarify certain points. For this response, they may have to be present in the courtroom.

The sources said the legal team of the Sharif family would not only raise contradictions in the JIT report but also highlight the biased comments about the Sharif family members and conclusions on the basis of ‘assumptions’, ‘probabilities’ and ‘analysis’.

“The legal team will also challenge four points given in the JIT report including confirmation of beneficial ownership of Maryam Nawaz of British Virgin Island (BVI) companies namely Nielson and Nescoll; confirmation of chairmanship of Mian Nawaz Sharif in offshore company namely FZE Capital (UAE); confirmation of fictitious sale/ purchase agreements submitted to the Supreme Court; and submission of falsified/ tampered declarations of trusts,” the sources said.

The sources said that senior lawyer Khawaja Haris is heading the legal team of the Sharif family but two prominent lawyers —Shahid Hamid and Makhdoom Ali Khan — could not become part of this team as both of them are not in the country. Salman Akram Raja has also shown his non-availability as he is going abroad in the next few days.

They said it would be highlighted in the petition that Maryam Nawaz was declared real and beneficial owner of offshore companies — Nielson and Nescoll — but at the same time the report stated: “Her present status with reference to ownership of these properties could not be checked/ verified in absence of record/ evidence”.

The sources said that the legal team would also challenge the letters of Errol George and Samba Financial Group on whose basis the JIT concluded: “Ms Maryam Safdar has submitted fake/ falsified documents to the JIT.”

It would be pointed out in the apex court that the JIT failed to get information from the BVI Financial Services Commission (BVIFSC) about beneficial ownership of the offshore companies — Nielson and Nescoll — and instead relied on ‘Know your Customers’ details by a company that lacked proper information about ownership of these companies.

As far as the ownership of an offshore company named FZE Capital (UAE) by Nawaz Sharif is concerned, the legal team would maintain that the ownership of a company is proved by shareholding certificates and mere chairmanship of a company never means the person owns the company.

The sources said that it would be raised in the apex court why the probe body did not contact the Ahli Steel Mills to seek authenticity of the agreement made between the Sharif family members and Ahli Steel Mills in 1980.

They said the legal team would also underline the fact that the Microsoft ‘Calibri’ font was available for use in 2006 as against the stance of the JIT that termed the declaration of trust signed by Hussain Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz as fake citing the reason that the computer font used in the declaration was not available before 2007.

It would also be highlighted that how can the JIT reach the conclusion that Tariq Shafi, the cousin of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has not read or understood the affidavit submitted by him in the Supreme Court and it is factually incorrect, speculative, tampered and misleading.

The sources said the legal team would also challenge the conclusion of the JIT with regard to Gulf Steel Mills that stated: “It can be inferred that nomination of a Benamidar owner (an orphan aged 18 years and a foreign national) was to distance himself and his immediate family members from prosecution.”

The sources said that it would also be proved before the apex court that the JIT report gave its findings about transportation of ‘scrap machinery’ of Ahli Steel Mills from Dubai to Jeddah ignoring the fact that the documents submitted by the members of Sharif family were about transportation of this machinery from Sharjah to Jeddah.

“The JIT in its report declared Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif the owner of 63-A flat in London due to his ‘exclusive use’ of this accommodation. The legal team will dispute this finding that is not based on any documentary proof,” the sources said.

The sources said that the petition would also raise the issue of ‘character assassination’ of the members of Sharif family in the JIT report in which many ‘inappropriate’ words have been used for them in the findings and conclusions.

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