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April 12, 2018

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Nawaz’s lawyer winds up cross examination of JIT head

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's counsel Khawaja Haris completed cross-examination of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head Wajid Zia in Avenfield apartments corruption reference here on Wednesday.

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JIT head Wajid Zia when questioned about a report of a UK based law firm, Gilead Cooper QC as to who procured this report, he expressed no knowledge about it.

When confronted with the first line of the report that reads ‘I am instructed on behalf of Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi’, Zia accepted that the report was procured by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan and attached with his writ petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Imran Khan had directed Gilead Cooper to prepare a report who might be the beneficial owner of the Nielsen and Nescoll offshore companies -- either Hussain or Maryam Nawaz.

Zia did not comment when questioned if the JIT relied upon this report knowing that Imran Khan is a political opponent of the PML-N. Anotherquestion if JIT included Imran Khan in its investigation, Zia replied in negative. Not even the Gilead Cooper was investigated, Zia admitted when questioned about the same.

Legal counsel for Maryam Nawaz and Captain (R) Muhammad Safdar, Amjad Pervez advocate cross-examined Zia regarding the report of Gilead Cooper and read out a few lines from the beginning of the report ‘For the purpose of this opinion I have been provided with a number of documents, to which I will refer. I have assumed the facts to be as recorded or stated in those documents except where it is clear that I am merely recording one side’s version of the events’.

Advocate Amjad Pervez question what documents Gilead Cooper relied on for preparation of this report. In reply, Zia said that they did not attach the same with it.

Another UK based law firm Stephen Moverley Smith QC’s opinion was also obtained by the JIT. It is to mention here that Gilead Cooper had agreed to the opinion of Stephen Moverley and said, “I agree with Moverley Smith that there is no requirement, either under the laws of Wales and England, or under the laws of BVI, for trust instruments to be registered or filed with any authority, and that there is no authority in either jurisdiction at which such registration could take place. This does affect or alter the conclusion that I have reached, which do not depend on a failure to register”.

JIT could find no evidence that Nawaz Sharif ever owned Neilsen, Nescoll or Avenfield apartments. At the start of the proceedings, legal counsel for Nawaz Sharif, Khawaja Haris Ahmed continued with his cross-examination of Wajid Zia. Responding to his questions, Zia admitted that they could find no documentary evidence to establish that the ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif ever owned the two offshore companies -- Neilsen & Nescoll or he ever remained owner to the Avenfield apartments. Zia said that the JIT might have tried but could not find anything in this regard.

Khawaja Haris then discussed the background of the JIT members and tried to establish their political connections. Regarding JIT member Bilal Rasool from the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Haris posed a question to Zia if JIT knew that Bilal Rasool was a nephew of Mian Muhammad Azhar of PML-Q. To which Zia replied that it came to their knowledge but Supreme Court of Pakistan had addressed this issue and made a final selection of the JIT members. Haris then posed another question if JIT knew that wife of Bilal Rasool was nominated for a special seat for women by PML-Q after 2013 elections. To which Zia replied that he was not sure. Haris then said that now she is hardened supporter of PTI and Zia repeated his previous stance. About State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) representative in the JIT, Amir Aziz, Khawaja Haris said that previously he had been working with the National Institute of Banking & Finance (NIBF). During the tenure of General (R) Pervez Musharraf, Aziz was brought on deputation in National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as banking specialist and he investigated the Hudaibya Paper Mills corruption reference. In reply Zia said that an objection was raised to the appointment of Aziz. When asked whether or not he was part of Hudaibya Paper Mills corruption reference, he said that he did not remember.

At this NAB deputy prosecutor general (DPG) raised objection that the defence during and after the formation of JIT never raised or agitated the bias of its members. And now they were disputing this at an irrelevant forum posing irrelevant questions. They not only demanded but welcomed the formation of JIT, NAB DPG said. And such questions being scandalous could not be asked, he also said. In reply Khawaja Haris said that the prosecutor was lying and asked if he could show them anything where they welcomed the formation of JIT.

“In fact we agitated the bias of JIT members at SC and the apex court had allowed that we could raise objections.” Later Khawaja Haris also provided AC with the Supreme Court judgment in this regard.

When hearing resumed Haris once again posed questions to Zia if it was Amir Aziz, whose investigation resulted into filing of a reference and later it was quashed by the Lahore High Court and Supreme Court of Pakistan had recently ordered for closure of the inquiry. Zia said that everything was in his knowledge like it was public knowledge but not specific.

Zia also admitted that it also came into the knowledge of the JIT that at the orders of Supreme Court, the appointment of Irfan Mangi being additional director NAB Quetta was being investigated.

About another member of the JIT Brigadier (R) Nauman Saeed, Zia said that it did not come into his knowledge that he was not regular employee of the ISI but a source employee. Zia said that JIT used to issue summons to the accused persons and witnesses through Brigadier Nauman.

Haris suggested Zia that he with ulterior motives hired services of the Quist solicitors whose owner Akhtar Raja was his first cousin. In reply Zia said that he would vehemently refuse to that suggestion.

Though JIT report was submitted before the Supreme Court on July 10, 2017 but it was undated. JIT attached some material with JIT report and some other material was separately submitted to the Supreme Court. The investigation team however withheld some correspondence that was done with some departments in Pakistan, Zia told. JIT held that correspondence was not material.

Legal counsel for Maryam Nawaz and her husband Captain (R) Muhammad Safdar started with his cross-examination with the questions inquiring Wajid Zia about his educational background and experience. Zia in reply said that he did his graduation in 1984 and joined police service of Pakistan in 1988 as an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP). He has previous experience of investigation and also knows about the investigation related provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and police rules. During his service, he also attended training courses.

Amjad Pervez then questioned Zia how the daily progress of the JIT was maintained. In reply Zia said that it was not an ordinary case and under Supreme Court of Pakistan’s directions, the JIT used to submit fortnightly reports before the Supreme Court and then it submitted its final report. It was not an ordinary criminal case so JIT did not maintain the daily diary like ‘Roznamcha’ since it was not investigating the criminals, Zia said.

Zia said that around 30 to 40 experts were working with the JIT, and in addition there was secretarial staff. JIT had filed an application to the Supreme Court (SC) to keep name of other experts secret to ensure their safety. SC had also ordered Ministry of Interior to provide security to the officials who apprehended their safety.

Answering different questions, Zia admitted that SC never authorised the JIT to keep names of 30/40 experts secret. JIT also did not disclose the role of those experts that they played during investigation, Wajid Zia said.

About maintaining record, Zia said that the JIT maintained record of a few mutual legal assistance (MLAs) applications and about a few it did not. MLA responses from the UAE authorities were entered in Diary Dispatch Register (DDR) while responses from the British Virgin Island (BVI) and email record was not entered in DDR. DDR is also not annexed with any volume, Zia admitted.

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