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December 5, 2018

CJP offers Nawaz to judge his own case

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December 5, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif appeared before the Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar for the first time after his disqualification in July 2017 regarding the suo motu case about the illegal construction of shops on the land of Pakpattan’s shrine in 1985.

During the hearing, the chief justice hinted at forming a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the matter, to which the PML-N founder said his experience with the JIT was not very pleasant and requested the CJP to consider investigations from someone else. At this, the courtroom burst into laughter. The chief justice remarked that a leader like Nawaz Sharif who was the prime minister thrice should have been above such controversies. The bench also offered the ex-PM to investigate the issue on his own.

Nawaz Sharif is facing a charge that being the chief minister of Punjab in 1986, he ordered withdrawal of a notification of Dec 17, 1969 and allegedly allotted huge lands of the Auqaf department around Pakpattan to Dewan Ghulam Qutab in violation of the high court order.

During the hearing, Nawaz Sharif said the secretary Auqaf might have used his powers to withdraw the notification. To this, the chief justice said the secretary has no such authority and this should be probed and asked him to suggest the mode of inquiry. Nawaz said it is a 32-year-old case and he can't recall the details. The court gave one-week time to Nawaz Sharif for his reply, asking him which forum should be assigned the task to probe the case.

The court on November 13 had summoned Nawaz Sharif in the case and had questioned under which law permission was granted to construct stores on the Auqaf department’s land. A lawyer representing Nawaz Sharif had argued that the former chief minister did not sign the de-notification summary. The chief justice then said that let them summon Nawaz Sharif, so that he could Chief Justice then said that let they summon Nawaz Sharif so that he could personally explain his position.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the chief justice while recalling the matter said the Auqaf Department had filed a petition in the high court claiming the ownership of the said land and the high court had also established that the land belonged to Auqaf Department.

“However, you have you allotted the land to a private owner in violation of the high court's decision,” the CJP told Nawaz, adding that if the former premier did not hand over the Auqaf land to a private owner, he will be exonerated of all charges.

The chief justice observed that Nawaz Sharif is a respectable leader and remained three-time prime minister and two-time chief minister. "The reputation of the former two-time chief minister and three-time prime minister must be clear,” the CJP remarked.

“Let’s we make you the judge to decide the matter as provision of justice is not only the job of judiciary and people in your position should also provide justice,” the Justice Saqib Nisar observed, saying the former premier should conduct investigation and give his findings to the court.

The Chief Justice observed that they are all of the opinion that there is a dire need of probing the matter. He said there are forums like NAB, FIA, Police and JIT but the former PM is not in favour of the JIT,” Justice Saqib Nisar said.

During the hearing, the court also reprimanded Barrister Zafarullah Khan who tried to speak on behalf of Nawaz Sharif. “You are not a practicing lawyer but a politician," the chief justice asked Zafarullah.

Meanwhile, the chief justice asked the former premier in a lighter tone as to why he felt the need to appear before the court with such a large team. Nawaz replied that he had only asked Ayaz Sadiq, Raja Zafarul Haq and Khawaja Asif to accompany him and barred others from coming to the court.

Later, the court gave one week time to Nawaz Sharif to submit his reply, stating that which forum should be assigned the task to probe the matter and adjourned further hearing. Today (Wednesday), the Supreme Court will also take up the case regarding Model Town tragedy which happened in Lahore in 2014 in which at least 14 people lost their lives and 100 others were injured.

A five-member larger bench headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel will hear the case for which notices have been issued to 146 people including the PML-N leaders Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza Shahbaz, Saad Rafique, Chaudhry Nisar, Pervaiz Rashid, Khawaja Asif, Abid Sher Ali and Rana Sanaullah.

Similarly, notices have also been issued to Attorney General for Pakistan as well as Advocate General Punjab Ahmed Awais as well advocates including Azam Nazir Tarar, Zahid Bukhari, Naseer Bhutta and many more to appear before the court today (Wednesday).

On Nov 19, the Supreme Court had constituted a larger bench for the formation of a new JIT to probe the Model Town case. The Punjab government had made the report of the Model Town incident public on December 5, 2017.

The inquiry report, prepared by Justice Baqir Najfi Commission, said that police tried to cover up the facts regarding who gave orders to open fire on protesters. It adds that no legal opinion was sought from the Punjab advocate general prior to the start of the operation.

The commission, in its report, also stated that on the ground, the standoff continued the whole night, resulting in minor injuries to police constables as well as PAT workers. The commission observed: "The level of cooperation in digging out the truth is that no police official from top to bottom, whether actively participated in the operation or not, did utter a single word about the person under whose command the police resorted to firing upon the PAT workers." Further, in its conclusion, the commission said, "It is shocking to note that everyone has deliberately but unsuccessfully tried to cover each other from possible adverse legal effects."

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