SC split decision in Panama Leaks case; PML-N declares judgment its victory
The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered further investigations into corruption allegations levelled by the opposition against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, saying there was insufficient evidence to order his removal from office.
“A thorough investigation is required,” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said, announcing the decision following a months-long hearing stemming from the Panama Papers leak last year that linked PM Sharif´s children to offshore businesses.
Announcing the operative part of the verdict spanning over five hundred and forty pages , Justice Khosa ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation team (JIT) to carry out investigation into how funds were transferred to Qatar, which the prime minister’s children said led to assets acquiring held by his sons through the offshore businesses in Panama. It was a split verdict of 3:2.
The Supreme Court ordered the JIT to present its report every two weeks before a Supreme Court bench. The court also ordered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and his sons Hasan and Hussein to appear before the JIT, which will complete its investigation within 60 days of its formation.
Justice Khosa said the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had failed to carry out his duties.
He said the investigation committee comprising one senior official each from NAB, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Securities Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the Military Intelligence (MI) will be tasked to carry out the probe.
The JIT shall investigate the case and collect evidence, if any; showing that respondent No. 1 or any of his dependents or benamidars owns, possesses or has acquired assets or any interest therein disproportionate to his known means of income. Respondents No. 1, 7 and 8 are directed to appear and associate themselves with the JIT as and when required. The JIT may also examine the evidence and material, if any, already available with the FIA and NAB relating to or having any nexus with the possession or acquisition of the aforesaid flats or any other assets or pecuniary resources and their origin. The JIT shall submit its periodical reports every two weeks before a Bench of this Court constituted in this behalf. The JIT shall complete the investigation and submit its final report before the Bench within a period of sixty days from the date of its constitution. The Bench thereupon may pass appropriate orders including an order for filing a reference against respondent No. 1 and any other person having nexus with the crime if justified on the basis of the material thus brought on the record before it.
The order held that upon receipt of the reports, periodic or final of the JIT, as the case may be, the matter of disqualification of respondent No. 1 shall be considered. If found necessary for passing an appropriate order in this behalf, respondent No. 1 or any other person may be summoned and examined.
The order requested Chief Justice of Pakistan to constitute a Special Bench to ensure implementation of this judgment so that the investigation into the allegations may not be left in a blind alley.
Two dissenting judges on the five-member bench were of the opinion that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had not been honest to the nation and that he should have been disqualified.
The five-member bench led by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had reserved its verdict in the case on February 23. The decision comes ahead of general elections scheduled to be held next year.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan’s detailed judgment spanning over 540 pages began with the epigraph from the cult classic novel ‘The Godfather’ likening the case to the very sentence attributed to Balzac’s original work Le Père Goriot: The popular 1969 novel ‘The Godfather’ by Mario Puzo recounted the violent tale of a Mafia family and the epigraph selected by the author was fascinating:
The novel was a popular sensation which was made into an acclaimed film. It is believed that this epigraph was inspired by a sentence that was written by Honoré de Balzac and its original version in French reads as follows:
Le secret des grandes fortunes sans cause apparente est un crime oublié, parce qu’il a été proprement fait.
(The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly executed)
The ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) called the Supreme Court verdict a victory for the party.
Maryam Nawaz, the prime minister’s daughter, tweeted photographs of Sharif in a celebratory mood with his family, embracing his brother Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.Another picture showed the prime minister with Shahbaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, and other senior PML-N leaders.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters outside the apex court that the verdict was split 3-2. “They have said what the PM already said in his letter – that a commission should be constituted to investigate the matter,” he said.
“We are ready for all kinds of investigation,” Asif said. “It has been established today that any evidence given by our opponents in the SC was not enough. We have succeeded.”
Railways Minister Saad Rafique asserted that the PML-N would “fully cooperate with the JIT and the court’s decision will be respected.” The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) should also respect the court’s decision, Rafique said, among slogans of “Go Imran, go.”
Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal termed it a “historic victory” for the PML-N. “The majority judgement shows that the PTI represents a minority in Pakistan.” “Conspirators have been defeated yet again after the dharna. After suffering successive electoral defeats IK’s desire to deseat PM Nawaz Sharif through non-ballot means failed again,” Iqbal said in a tweet.