Sharifs in the dock over Panamagate

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By Syed Sabeeh

ISLAMABAD: After listening to the petitioners and the respondents, the Supreme Court has considered forming a judicial commission in the Panama leaks case, and concluded that appointment of the commission would be expedient for “just” and “quick” disposal of Panamagate-related petitions.For consideration, the top court has directed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) to submit their formulations regarding the Terms of References (ToRs) for the commission to probe the Panamagate.

The top court also directed the respondents of the petitions to include the premier’s daughter Maryam Safdar, his son-in-law Captain (r) Muhammad Safdar, his sons Hassan and Hussain Nawaz, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, PTI chief Imran Khan and other offices concerned in the process and submit their concise statement, if any.

 

A five-judge larger bench headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali on Tuesday resumed hearing of four identical petitions related to the Panamagate, during which it considered the formation of a commission.

Interestingly, the PTI did not request the top court to grant interim relief following their petition, wherein the party had requested the court to restrain Nawaz Sharif, Captain (r) Muhammad Safdar, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and other respondents from holding their respective offices/designations until the final disposal of the case.

When the hearing started, former attorney general of Pakistan Salman Aslam Butt, who represents the prime minister Maryam Safdar and Ishaq Dar, appeared before the bench and requested it to grant time for groundwork, as his clients had hired him a day ago.

To this, the chief justice of Pakistan expressed displeasure and remarked the entire nation was setting its eyes on the matter of Panama leaks. “Therefore, you should have filed a reply. We will think you are not interested in filing a reply. Prime facie it is a matter of public interest. Therefore, its hearing can be held on a daily basis.”The CJP observed that the hearing of constitutional petitions on Panama leaks would be conducted on a day-to-day basis.

Hamid Khan, the counsel for the PTI, told the bench that the Sharif family, specifically Maryam Safdar, owned properties in London that were purchased through two offshore companies, but the prime minister claimed that the properties were purchased after selling a factory in Jeddah.

Salman Aslam Butt told the court that the premier would accept the formation of the judicial commission. “The respondent no 1 (Nawaz Sharif) accepts formation of commission to inquire into allegations of illegal properties and alleged returns. If the allegations proved… the respondent shall accept the legal consequences,” he read out a message from the prime minister before the bench.

Hamid Khan argued that prime minister was trying to confine the matter only to the extent of properties and tax returns, and added that other allegations should also be probed into.

Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed observed that jurisdiction of the commission would not be restricted to the consent of parties, adding that it was a serious issue and there was complete unrest in the country.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa observed that the court would solve the matter as soon as possible, as now the highest forum had taken up the matter. He further observed that the whole country was agitated, and every citizen was disturbed over the current situation.

Advocate Manzur Butt, counsel for the JI, suggested the court that the head of the commission must be an in-service judge of the Supreme Court.

The CJP, however, observed that the court would itself make the ToRs if the parties did not reach a consensus.

He further observed that an incumbent judge of the Supreme Court, having all authorities that a judge of the top court reserved, would head the commission.

Earlier, the CJP remarked every party would be provided an opportunity to present its stance. “The PTI should adopt a responsible attitude.” The hearing of the case was adjourned until tomorrow (Thursday).

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