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ISLAMABAD: More than three months have passed since the Sharif family’s trial in an accountability court began, but the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has yet to submit original or certified copies of the report compiled by the Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT).
So far, the trial had been conducted on the basis of unattested photocopies of the JIT report. Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Haris pointed out during a hearing on Tuesday since the record presented by the prosecution was not original, it was inadmissible in the court as per law.
Amjad Pervaiz, another defence counsel, informed the accountability court that the NAB obtained documents “for filing of reference only” and now it was for the court to decide whether the record was admissible or not.
The requisition form through which the NAB had requested the Supreme Court to hand over the JIT report and other documents carries an application seeking “short leave for urgent work” on the back of it along with words “Criminal Branch” and date “November 16, 2016”.
Additional Director (Coord) Operations Division Shakeel Anjum Nagra, who recorded his statement on Tuesday, said he received attested/certified copies of the JIT report from the Supreme Court and handed them over to the NAB.
When cross-examined, the witness admitted that the NAB’s prosecution department submitted requisition form in the apex court which was later returned, adding that the top court had directed for filing an application for obtaining the record.
It was, however, not mentioned on the form that the NAB request for obtaining documents was rejected or the NAB should file a separate application for obtaining them.
When asked if any letter was available that could show directions for submission of an application once the requisition form was returned without any stamp, order or note, Nagra replied in negative.
He, however, added that an investigation officer said that the NAB needed to file application as the Supreme Court was not issuing documents on the requisition form.
“This is hearsay which is not admissible and can’t be recorded or read into evidence,” Haris raised the objection.
In the subsequent questions during cross-examination, Nagra said he did not enquire why directions or note was not present when the form was returned and he did not write about it to the high-ups. The prosecution department might have brought the issue to the notice of the ‘authorities’, he added.
Responding to a question as to why the leave application and other things were present on the requisition form, Nagra said he did not have any idea as it belonged to the prosecution department. In addition, he admitted that the name of the Supreme Court official who provided the “attested copies” to him and the date were not mentioned on the copies.
“Can the NAB and the court rely on photocopies,” Haris asked. “The record has to be original or the certified copies of the original and not the attested copies of the photocopies.”
NAB prosecutors said that they did not apply again for the certified copies of the JIT report because it was already available. A prosecutor requested the court to acquire the record from Supreme Court, which the court verbally turned down.
“Shall we move forward at their [NAB]’s own risk and cost,” Judge Muhammad Bashir suggested to Haris.
He replied that it would have been better if the NAB had produced something in writing about the rejection of the requisition form and filing of the application. “Unfortunately, the NAB didn’t pursue the matter. Even, the name of the Supreme Court official who returned the form is not mentioned anywhere,” he added.
“Moreover, it is not stated on the documents that they are a ‘true copy’ or made from the original documents,” Haris said, adding that it was just an oral explanation that the documents were not provided through the form.
Apart from Nagra, two more witnesses, Yasir Shabbir and Afaq Ahmed, recorded their statements before the court in the three references – Avenfield Apartment, Al Azizia Steel Company & Hill Metal Company and Flagship Investment and other companies – filed against the Sharif family.
Shabbir, a bank official, has been directed to produce more record on the next hearing while Ahmed, an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, produced documents pertaining to ‘Qatari letter’ which he had sent to JIT head Wajid Zia without opening its seal.
Shabbir informed the court about different transactions in Maryam Nawaz’s account from Hill Metal Establishment and admitted during cross-examination that no irregularity or illegality was found while maintaining Maryam’s account.
In its July 28 judgment, the apex court had directed the country’s top graft buster to file references against Sharif, his sons, daughter and son in-law within six weeks. The former prime minister and his sons Hasan and Hussain Nawaz have been named in all the three references while daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar have only been named in the Avenfield reference only.
The court would now resume hearing on January 3.