ISLAMABAD: The government departments, blamed by the joint investigation team (JIT) for allegedly obstructing their probe intoallegations against the Sharif family, are expected to submit their replies to the Supreme Court on Thursday (today).
A number of replies have been submitted to the attorney general’s (AG) office by different organisations, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the law ministry, and may be filed formally before the Supreme Court on June 15.
The Supreme Court implementation bench has also asked the AG to look into the JIT’s application, highlighting impediments in their work and tampering of documents by state institutions. The court has asked AG to address the JIT’s concerns and also suggest remedial measures.
In its application, the JIT had alleged that the SECP, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), FBR, the law ministry and Intelligence Bureau (IB) were creating impediments in the collection of evidence in the Panama Papers probe.
The application, which was signed by all six investigators, the JIT had sought corrective directions from the SC, so that government machinery was not misused. They had also asked the apex court to ensure the safety and security of witnesses, JIT members and their families, as well as the protection of their jobs and careers.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, the law ministry strongly denied allegations that it intentionally lingered over the issuance of a notification, authorising the JIT chairman under section 21 of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999.
The fact of the matter was that the order of the Supreme Court directing the federal government to issue the notification was complied with within two days of its receipt, the ministry maintained.
It said the court’s order of May 15 was conveyed by the attorney general to the ministry on the following day. Since the notification was to be issued by the federal government, a summary was moved for cabinet approval on May 17.
The approval was conveyed to the ministry by the cabinet division on May 18 and on that day, the law secretary issued the notification and sent a copy to JIT head Wajid Zia, who acknowledged its receipt on May 18 and requested the law ministry to circulate the notification to all concerned.
The ministry claimed that it forwarded the notification and the JIT chairman’s request to the ministries of foreign affairs and interior on the same day.
In its own rejoinder, the FBR is expected to dispute the JIT’s claim that it submitted “piecemeal, incomplete and selective records to frustrate JIT”. The department maintained that whatever documents were asked for, such as income tax and wealth tax returns, have been submitted within a week.
FBR was of the view that it fully cooperated with the JIT from the very beginning and provided all the record available, even though under the law, taxpayers were only required to maintain records for a maximum of six years.
It contends that rather than taking this plea, it deputed officers to trace out the old record, which was subsequently provided to the JIT.
FBR will also state that a senior commissioner had been submitting the records to the JIT in person and was always present to answer all the investigators’ queries.
In its reply, the SECP is expected to dispute the JIT’s assertion that Chairman Zafarul Haq Hijazi was allegedly instrumental in retroactively closing the investigation of the money-laundering case against Chaudhry Sugar Mills Ltd in 2016.
The commission will claim that the incumbent chairman was appointed long after the matter was closed by the concerned officer and that attributing the closure of the investigation to the current chairman was mala fide and in contradiction to the record.
SECP is also expected to say that record keeping was the responsibility of the concerned officers and any dereliction of duty cannot be attributed to the office of the chairman who has no jurisdiction or control on such matters by any stretch of the imagination.
The JIT, it will contend, had erred in comprehending the factual issues and misread the record. Any statement attributed to officers may be the result of coercion, which should not be taken into consideration, SECP maintains.