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Sunday February 25, 2024

Did SC find ‘Sicilian mafia’ or ‘godfather’ in Nawaz?

July 31, 2017

News Analysis

ISLAMABAD: There is a hilarious aspect to the Supreme Court’s judgment on Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification -- it all started to find “billions” of corruption money from the political “godfather” and the “Sicilian mafia” but ended up fixing him for not declaring “un-withdrawn salary” that was never received.

The judgment is really “historic” and will be remembered for decades to come but perhaps not for good reasons. What the Supreme Court of Pakistan did has shocked the legal minds and surprised many others.

Interestingly despite what is considered by many as “weak judgment”, the “godfather” did not behave as “Sicilian mafia”. He opted to leave the office of the prime minister without even raising any hue and cry.

The SC verdict of the five-member bench, which did not have even one dissenting voice, disqualified Nawaz Sharif and ousted him from the officer of the chief executive on the basis of following conclusion: “It is hereby declared that having failed to disclose his un-withdrawn receivables constituting assets from Capital FZE Jebel Ali, UAE in his nomination papers filed for the General Elections held in 2013 in terms of Section 12(2)(1) of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 (ROPA), and having furnished a false declaration under solemn affirmation respondent No. 1 Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is not honest in terms of Section 99(1) of ROPA and Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 and therefore he is disqualified to be a Member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).”

It means that Nawaz Sharif’s major “crime”, which became the basis for his removal and disqualification, is his failure to “disclose un-withdrawn receivables constituting assets”. Sounds interesting.

Though legal experts are raising questions on different “unprecedented” aspects of the verdict including how the three-member bench converted into five-member bench to create “history”, The News senior correspondent in his story appeared on Sunday pointed out a major flaw in the apex court’s ruling.

He said that the SC ignored the relevant tax law, which defines the asset, while condemning the elected prime minister. Section 12(2) of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001 says, “Salary means any amount received by an employee…”

Nawaz Sharif did not receive the salary yet the SC while admitting this fact included the “un-withdrawn receivable” salary as part of his assets not declared.  In the case of salary, the tax law considers the “received” amount as asset whereas in term of income from property, “The rent received or receivable” has to be declared.

Apart from such serious flaws of the verdict, the most serious aspect of this judgment haunting the country’s legal minds is that it has come from the apex court of the country leaving no space for the “convicted prime minister” to file an appeal. 

Nawaz Sharif has the only option of filing a review petition before the Supreme Court, which in my view will not make any difference unless full court meets and reviews the verdict.

Besides the conviction of not declaring what Nawaz Sharif had never received, the SC referred other allegation to the NAB to prepare reference for trial before the accountability court. The 28th July verdict, however, did not find Nawaz Sharif corrupt, the “godfather” or the “Sicilian mafia”.

Nawaz Sharif and his children were alleged of making billions from corruption, money laundering, forgery, having assets beyond known means of income etc. In order to meet the pre-requisites of fair trial, some of these matters have been referred to the NAB to prepare reference for trial before the accountability court.

In such matters, the accused will at least have the right to defend besides judicial forum of appeals if they are convicted by the trial court. But here too, the SC in its verdict seeks from the Chief Justice of Pakistan to appoint a judge to monitor the NAB and Accountability Court for implementation of its decision in letter and spirit.

It is feared that such a monitoring from Supreme Court may influence both the NAB as well as the Accountability Court to see the things and proceed in Sharifs cases as has been the tone already set by the apex court in its verdict.