ISLAMABAD: Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday described the Supreme Court’s verdict as inappropriate as he recorded his statement before the accountability court in the Avenfield properties reference.
Nawaz said he was neither the real or beneficial owner of the Avenfield apartments nor it was his benami property, adding that the question pertained to Hussain Nawaz.
He also denied any kind of involvement in setting up the Gulf Steel Mills (GSM) in Dubai and said except from the fact that he had participated in the opening ceremony of GSM in 1974, he never remained involved in any activity related to GSM, whether it was share sale agreements or the sale proceeds of the unit, and all the affairs were looked after by his father.
“Since I was not associated with GSM, I have no knowledge how finances were generated for its establishment,” he added, as he replied to 55 questions out of a total of 127. Nawaz in his statement alleged selective collection of evidence and selective portions from statements of witnesses mentioned in the JIT report. He severely criticised the inclusion of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) in the Joint Investigation Team (JIT).
About Brig Nauman Saeed of ISI and Kamran Khursheed of MI, he said these appointments were inappropriate with obvious effects on the JIT proceedings given the civil-military tension that had plagued this country for the 70 years of its history. It also heightened the tension in civil-military relations, he added.
Nawaz said Brig Nauman was the most aggressive JIT member whose description had been given in an application filed in the Supreme Court. “Nauman Saeed was a source employee from ISI and actually his salary is not reflected anywhere in the record. Nauman Saeed was also a member of the Dawn Leaks inquiry committee that has also heightened the civil-military tension,” he said.
About the JIT head Wajid Zia, the former prime minister said, “His bias is even otherwise established from the record and it is evident that he manoeuvred by engaging his cousin Akhtar Raja as solicitor in London to manufacture false evidence.” Wajid was also under influence of the other JIT members and not working freely, Nawaz added.
According to the statement, an assistant director of NAB was not authorised to investigate this matter and the investigation officer, as per his own statement, was not authorised to file a reference in the court. NAB had no other option but to file the references under the Supreme Court order.
Nawaz’s statement reads that the Supreme Court order to form a JIT was for assisting the apex court regarding adjudication of the constitutional petitions. “The JIT report is inadmissible, inappropriate and irrelevant before this court and against my right to fair trial under Article 10-A of the Constitution.”
“The JIT was only constituted to assist the apex Supreme Court. Inferences and conclusions drawn by the JIT were not only inappropriate but inadmissible as well,” Nawaz said. “These inferences and conclusions cannot be used against me as a circumstance but these are rather violative of the Supreme Court order and infringes on my right to fair trial,” he argued.
His statement says the so-called findings of the JIT were irrelevant firstly because these were prepared for the assistance of the apex court, secondly, the report of an investigation agency is non-admissible, thirdly for the reason that no volume of the JIT report stands exhibited and the documents JIT has relied upon were neither scribed nor executed by it.
Nawaz said the Supreme Court had directed NAB to form corruption references on the basis of material collected by the JIT and not that the report may be treated as evidence. “The JIT collected selected documents from various institutions without details that who scribed these documents and who executed these. All this was done to implicate me in some wrongdoing.”
Nawaz in his statement criticised the appointment of JIT members being biased and associated with rival political parties, as he strongly questioned their impartiality.
About Bilal Rasool, a JIT member from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Nawaz said, “He is a maternal nephew of Mian Muhammad Azhar and all his family ardent supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which is evident from the photographs of Mian Azhar's son Hammad Azhar with Imran Khan at his Bani Gala residence. Bilal Rasool's wife is very active supporter of PTI and she has been posting on social media in favour of PTI at the time when her husband was appointed as a JIT member. Bilal himself has been critic of the PML-N government.”
Regarding Aamir Aziz from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Nawaz said his inclusion was received with much skepticism as he previously had conducted an inquiry into the Hudaibiya Paper Mills corruption reference at the directions of military ruler Pervez Musharraf. In the year 2000, Aziz was working as Director Inspection Banking when he was appointed as Director NAB by then Musharraf, the former prime minister recalled.
Aamir was tasked with investigating the Hudaibiya Paper Mill corruption reference, Nawaz added. “Thus he became part of the investigation, involving me and my family in concocted and false cases.
“This hatred stood more entrenched in his mind when a complaint was lodged against Gen Musharraf under charges of high treason. Musharraf at the moment is living in Dubai in self-exile on the pretext of medical treatment,” he said.
The three-time prime minister said the reference formed by Aamir was quashed by a Lahore High Court (LHC) division bench and recently a Supreme Court bench had also rejected an appeal for reopening the same.
According to Nawaz, the Supreme Court, while dismissing NAB's appeal, said the Hudaibiya reference was prepared with mala fide intentions and the accused persons were denied due process of law. This reference was filed to oppress the accused persons.
About the JIT member from NAB Irfan Naeem Mangi, Nawaz said a three-member Supreme Court bench had been hearing in the matter of his appointment and induction in the Bureau. “The Supreme Court had referred this matter to the Establishment Division with numerous other cases and it is not decided yet,” he added.
Nawaz also raised questions over the applications for mutual legal assistance (MLA) written by the JIT to foreign jurisdiction. He said none of the MLAs had been produced before the court, adding, “Furthermore, the statements recorded by the JIT are also inadmissible under the law.”
He also alleged that selective portions of the statements had been mentioned in the Volume II of JIT report. Nawaz questioned the collection of evidence and said the persons who supplied copies were not associated with the investigations and their statements were not recorded.
About the statement of Tariq Shafi, Nawaz said, “He (Shafi) is neither an accused nor a witness. His affidavit is no more than hearsay.” About setting up GSM in 1971, he said he had just graduated that year and his family’s factories in Pakistan were nationalised and not a single penny was paid to them as compensation. He was also not involved in the Hudaibiya reference, Nawaz said.
The former prime minister admitted that he delivered a speech in the National Assembly, addressed to the nation and also gave TV interviews. He, however, said the attached transcript was not verified.
About his speech in the National Assembly, Nawaz said it was based on copies of various agreements of GSM, Azizia Steel Company, etc. “This information was shared with me by Hussain Nawaz and it was not my personal knowledge.”
Nawaz said since he delivered a speech in the National Assembly, it was his consistent stance that he never remained real or beneficial owner of the Avenfield properties. “I never held Nielsen and Nescoll’s bearer shares or registered shares certificate. Prosecution has miserably failed to even remotely establish anything to the contrary,” he said. “There is no credible evidence that the Avenfield apartments ever remained in my possession.”
About forensic expert Robert William Radley's report, Nawaz said he prepared a biased report in unholy haste. On Monday, the hearing started at almost 9:30am and kept going till 1pm. During that time, Nawaz kept standing at the rostrum and recorded his statement. For about more than an hour, there was no light in the room, thus neither air-conditioners nor fans were working. Nawaz then asked for a tissue box and kept wiping perspiration from his face.
Other MNAs and PML-N members accompanying him also removed their coats and waistcoats to reduce the heat a bit. During proceedings, the security staff snatched Maiza Hameed's phone as it rung.
During an interval, Nawaz, while talking to Pervaiz Rashid, said, “One the one hand, cases are being heard against me and, on the other hand, our vote bank is increasing.” To this, Pervaiz replied, “Those who are opposing us are running our election campaign as well.”
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