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November 14, 2017

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Justice Khosa recuses himself from Hudaibiya bench

Justice Khosa recuses himself from Hudaibiya bench

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday could not take up the appeal of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), challenging the verdict of 2014 Lahore High Court quashing a reference against the Sharif family in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case, after the senior-most judge Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa recused himself from the bench, which was constituted for the instant matter.

Justice Asif Khosa requested the Chief Justice (CJ) of Pakistan to constitute another bench for hearing the instant matter. Last week on Friday, the office of the Supreme Court, while issuing cause list of cases for the week commencing from Monday (Nov 13), had constituted a three-member bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, for hearing the NAB appeal against the judgment of the Lahore High Court, delivered in 2014, quashing a reference against the Sharif family in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case.

On Monday, however, when the three-member bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa arrived in the courtroom, Justice Asif Khosa recused himself from the bench, saying that the registrar's office might have made a mistake while fixing the instant case before his roster.

He said he had already written 14 paragraphs on the instant mater and issued orders for reopening of the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case in the verdict delivered in the Panama Leaks case on April 20, 2017. “I think, the registrar’s office has not read my verdict in the Panama Paper’s case while even I gave my ruling on the matter concerning Ishaq Dar,” Justice Khosa said.

Meanwhile, Justice Asif Khosa sent the matter to Chief Justice of Pakistan for constituting another bench to hear the instant matter. Justice Khosa, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, was heading a five-member larger bench of the apex court that gave a historic verdict on July 28 in the Panama Papers case, disqualifying Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for being dishonest while failing to disclose his un-withdrawn salary as chairman of the UAE-based offshore company Capital FZE.

Waqas Qadeer Dar, Prosecutor General National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on September 20, had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, requesting to set aside the judgmentformer prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members were acquitted.

Ousted PM Nawaz Sharif, his brother and Chief Minister Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif, Mian Muhammad Abbas Sharif (late), Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Mrs Shamim Akhtar and Mrs Sabiha Abbass, Mrs Maryam Safdar, Federation of Pakistan and Judge Accountability Court No IV Rawalpindi had been made in the appeal as respondents.

NAB had requested the apex court to examine the legality, propriety and vires of the impugned judgment of March 11, 2014 and hence may be set aside in the interests of justice, fair play and equity, adding that the impugned judgment is not passed in consonance with the dictums laid down by the apex court.

It was contended that the LHC referee judge was not competent to set aside the findings of the high court, in which NAB had been allowed to re-initiate investigations against Sharif family members.

The anti-graft body had submitted that in view of the fact that the JIT which was constituted by the apex court while dealing with the petitions, for probing Panama matter, when collected further incriminating material regarding Hudaibiya Paper Mills, it (NAB) cannot be debarred or restrained from proceeding further with the investigation, hence it would be appropriate to set aside the impugned judgment to the extent of re-investigation in order to fortify and corroborate the material collected by the JIT.

The JIT had, in its report, had recommended that the Hudaibiya Paper Mills Case should be reopened. The Hudaibiya Paper Mills money laundering reference was initiated on the basis of an April 25, 2000 confessional statement of Ishaq Dar, wherein he admitted his role in laundering money to the tune of $14.86 million on behalf of the Sharifs through fictitious accounts in 1990s. The witness was, however, pardoned by the then NAB chairman.

LHC referee Justice Sardar Shamim had quashed the reference on March 11, 2014 on the grounds that if a re-investigation was allowed against the Sharif family, it would provide an opportunity to the investigators to pad up lacunas.

The learned High Court had quashed the case as the PML-N continued to claim that Dar's statement was taken under duress. Later, NAB had decided not to challenge the high court’s decision. Nawaz Sharif was not named in the interim reference filed in March 2000; however, in the final reference against the Hudaibiya Paper Mills- approved by then chairman NAB Khalid Maqbool-the bureau had accused Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Abbas Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Shamim Akhtar, Sabiha Abbas and Maryam Nawaz.

The Hudaibiya Paper Mills case came to the limelight when a five-member SC bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, took up PTI’s plea to disqualify Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on charges of facilitating the Sharif family in alleged money laundering of Rs1.2 billion.

On Sep 15, NAB Prosecutor General Waqas Qadeer Dar assured the Supreme Court that it will be filing the appeal in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case. The PG gave the assurance during the hearing of Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rasheed's petition in the court seeking re-opening of the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case.

The decision of closing Hudaibiya case was taken by NAB authorities on the grounds that earlier in October 2011, a Rawalpindi division bench of the LHC restrained the accountability court from proceeding in the matter after Nawaz Sharif and members of his family challenged the revival of the references and requested the court to quash the cases.

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