ISLAMABAD: Hussain Nawaz, the elder son of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, will appear before the joint investigation team (JIT) probing the Panama Papers case for a second time today (Tuesday) after the Supreme Court turned down his objections against two of the body’s members.
“We are not going to remove any JIT member on mere conjecture unless something concrete comes up because the prime minister is the one being investigated,” Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, who heads the three-judge implementation bench of the Supreme Court, observed on Monday.
The PM’s son had objected to the inclusion of two members — Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s Bilal Rasool and State Bank of Pakistan’s Amer Aziz — accusing them of being close to the PML-N’s political rivals.
The JIT members, Justice Khan explained, were nominated after considering their experience, adding that mere suspicion could not become the basis for their transfer.
Ex-Qatari PM, NBP chief and British-Pakistani witness haven’t answered summons, court told
“The apprehensions should be reasonable, otherwise we will have to summon angels from heaven to conduct the investigation,” Justice Khan retorted when Hussain Nawaz’s lawyer requested the court to appoint someone neutral with no previous relationship with anybody.
But Justice Khan highlighted that whatever the JIT collected would ultimately be laid before the court in the form of a fortnightly or final report. Therefore, the court would decide what was admissible and what was not.
When Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf suggested that the court could order the JIT to provide a list of documents it needed whenever it summoned someone, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed observed that the court did not expect the law officer to take sides.
Hussain Nawaz’ counsel Khawaja Muhammad Haris repeatedly referred to an application filed by Tariq Shafi — the prime minister’s cousin — who alleged that he was made to sit before the JIT for 13 hours at a stretch, during which time one of the members continuously intimidated, browbeat and harassed him, while another threatened him to withdraw the affidavit he submitted in the Panama Papers leaks case or face penal consequences.
Mr Shafi was even called a liar repeatedly by one JIT member, the counsel said.
However Justice Saeed observed that Mr Shafi was summoned by the probe team for an interrogation and not “a tea party”.
Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan recalled that the JIT was working overtime, even sitting on Saturdays and Sundays because they had to complete the task assigned to them within the stipulated period of 60 days.
“What is the [point] of the JIT if they do not interrogate you?” Justice Ahsan wondered, regretting that the court had noticed a lot of delaying tactics and resistance to the process.
“It is your job to provide complete material, because it was you who knows which documents have to be provided in your defence,” Justice Ahsan told Mr Harris.
Though Hussain Nawaz was not present, PTI leaders Jahangir Tareen, Ishaq Khakwani, Naeemul Haq and Fawad Chaudhry quietly observed proceedings, as did Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and PML-N MNAs Talal Chaudhry and Daniyal Aziz.
During proceedings, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Additional Director General Wajid Zia — who heads the JIT — informed the court that a witness, British-Pakistani Kashif Masood Qazi, did not appear despite being summoned since he lived abroad.
Another witness, National Bank of Pakistan CEO Saeed Ahmed, was said to be avoiding the probe, since he had also not appeared before the probe body, despite repeated summons.
But when the Supreme Court bench warned that non-bailable arrest warrants could be issued in his name, Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali assured the court that Mr Ahmed would appear before the investigation team on Tuesday.
Both witnesses are connected with the Hudabiya Paper Mills case: in Ishaq Dar’s confession, which he later disowned, he admitted to laundering $14.86 million and opening two bank accounts in the names of Sikandar Masood Qazi and Talat Masood Qazi for Nawaz Sharif’s brother.
In the confessional statement dated April 4, 2000 Mr Dar said he had known Masood Ahmed Qazi, the head of the family, since 1970.
As per the statement, Nawaz Sharif asked Mr Dar to open four benami foreign currency accounts in the names of Sikandar Masood Qazi, Talat Masood Qazi, Nuzhat Gohar Qazi and Kashif Masood Qazi.
The Qazi family had disassociated themselves with these accounts, saying that their identity cards were misused to open bank accounts.
According to JIT head Wajid Zia, Kashif Qazi fears for his life and is not ready to come to Pakistan.
Mr Dar’s statement also links the NBP CEO — who was at one time one of the directors of Mr Dar’s First Hajveri Modarba Co — with the money laundering scam, claiming that his foreign currency account was used to deposit large sums of foreign currency provided by the Sharif family to offer as collateral to obtain different and indirect credit lines.
Mr Zia also informed the court that the JIT had summoned former Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, but he had not responded to the summons.
Ordering the JIT to conduct its proceedings strictly in accordance with the law, the court instructed the body to remain independent, impartial and non-partisan, while maintaining human dignity at all cost during interrogations. “Whether it is the prime minister or a peon, they should be treated equally,” Justice Khan observed.