The Broadsheet saga

April 18, 2021

The Broadsheet Inquiry Commission has submitted its findings. The government says that it will take action against all involved

“The apologists of corruption are a dime a dozen. I wonder whether this phenomenon reflects some perverted form of ancient tribalism and moral bankruptcy or such persons are simply standing there with their mouths open, tails wagging hoping for some crumbs from the table.” These are the concluding words of Broadsheet Inquiry Commission Report authored by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed (retired) earlier this month.

The findings of the Broadsheet Inquiry Commission have been debated in the media. The report concludes that the concerned departments of the government did not fully cooperate with the commission in its bid to gather incriminating evidence against those responsible for the loss of millions of dollars.

The commission has suggested that the federal government undertake a consultative process as per Rules of Business (1973) with the concerned ministries before sending international commercial agreements. The commission has also suggested capacity building for institutions like the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and for the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Law and Justice and Finance.

Besides about a dozen officials the commission examined the role of lawyers, Ahmer Bilal Soofi and Ahmed Tariq Rahim, former ambassador Abdul Basit, Law Ministry’s Ghulam Rasool, former Pakistan High Commission London director Shahid Ali Baig, FBR senior official Hassan Saqib Sheikh, sitting judge Kaleem Khan, Lt Col Shehzad Anwar Bhatti (retired), Tariq Fawad Malik and Jerry James.

The federal government has said that action would be taken against all those responsible for the loss to the state.

“The government has decided to take action against all those named by the commission, exposing their shady role in making these illegal payments”, said Fawad Chaudhry, the federal minister for science and technology.

The commission notes that officials admitted that “no instruction in writing had been issued to the High Commission in the UK that any payment be made to Broadsheet LLC, Gibraltar, or Broadsheet LLC, Colorado.”

Lawyer Ahmer Bilal Soofi says that as an outside counsel to the NAB, had a restricted mandate in writing to negotiate the amount between the two parties.

“I was kept out of the said meeting held in London in 2008. Nor was the said agreement shown to me by any party later. I received no instructions for due diligence winding up of Gerry James’ companies. Drafting of agreement was at the request of the NAB to facilitate the meeting so that a draft agreement could be sent to the London High Commission. It was supposed to be revised and amended based on the authorisation document that Gerry James had assured to bring,” says Soofi.

Ambassador Abdul Basit says, “Pakistan’s mission in London made payments to Broadsheet (Gibraltar) on the instructions of the Foreign Office. The mission is not an investigative body. The mission did not have the required amount that is why the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dispatched the said amount through special remittance for payments already cleared by the concerned officials.”

Justice Azmat Saeed was a part of the Supreme Court bench in 2016-2017 that disqualified Nawaz Sharif for public office. On May 17, 2018, he heard a plea of M/s Broadsheet LLC in his chamber seeking a copy of Panama JIT’s Volume X to plead its case before an international arbiter in London.

The federal cabinet has ordered that proceedings be started in light of the commission’s report. The task will most likely go to the Federal Investigation Agency.

The writer is A Special Investigative Correspondent with Geo Television. He tweets at   @ZahidGishkori

The Broadsheet saga