News Analysis |
The head of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), formed by the Supreme Court (SC) to probe into the Panama Papers case, Wajid Zia appeared before the accountability court on Friday to record his statement in the Avenfield reference case against the former premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar. Zia started recording his statement on Thursday where his status in the court was questioned.
On Thursday, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) presented Zia as the prosecution witness but defence counsel Amjad Pervez questioned whether he can be permitted as a witness since he was part of the investigation team against Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Paper’s case. He was permitted by the accountability court judge Muhammad Bashir to testify as a prosecution witness. Zia presented the JIT report as evidence in the court and the debate started around the permissibility of the report as evidence in the court.
Many political experts believe that this might be the way out of conviction for the former premier since he lost the Senate chairmanship on 12th March so he will not be able to introduce a new National Reconciliation Order (NRO) or enact legislature to curb the powers of the judiciary.
The defence lawyer then argued that volume 1 and 2 contained the statements of witnesses, while volume 8 was related to Hudaibiya Paper mills. Only volume 3, 4 and 5 dealt with the case at hand but not in entirety. The NAB deputy prosecutor general (DPG) Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi responded that the defence counsel admitted that there was some relevant evidence in the JIT report so it should be permitted. He further argued that since the apex court relied on the JIT report, it should be consulted in the accountability court.
Judge Muhammad Bashir then allowed Zia to record his statement but asked him to provide evidence and refrain from narrating events. Zia then presented a photocopy of a letter by former Qatari Prince Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani which defended Nawaz’s allegations. The JIT had declared in July last year that the letter was a myth. He presented the original one on the Friday hearing. The hearing was adjourned till 30th March.
Three corruption references were filed by NAB against Nawaz Sharif and his family after the 28th July 2017 verdict that disqualified Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister of Pakistan. Three references: Avenfield properties, Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments, were filed against the Nawaz and his sons: Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz. While only one reference, Avenfield properties, was filed against Maryam Nawaz and her husband Capt. Safdar. Hussain and Hassan Nawaz have been declared proclaimed offenders by the court for their continuous absence during the proceedings.
The defence lawyer then argued that volume 1 and 2 contained the statements of witnesses, while volume 8 was related to Hudaibiya Paper mills. Only volume 3, 4 and 5 dealt with the case at hand but not in entirety.
The Avenfield reference is nearing its conclusion as Wajid Zia is one the final witnesses to record their testimony. The accountability court had finished recording the statements of prosecution witnesses when NAB filed a supplementary reference in the case which was approved on 22nd January. It presented seven news witness including Wajid Zia and two UK based witnesses who recorded their statements using a video link.
The SC had given a six month deadline to resolve the three corruption references against the Sharif family, the hearing commenced on 14th September 2017 and the SC deadline has already passed. The accountability court is trying to conclude the case with hearings in quick succession. Nawaz Sharif and his family have been unable to provide a money trial to the court so far so their conviction appears to be only a matter of time.
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Senior PPP leader and renowned lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan had alleged on a TV program that Nawaz is planning to storm the SC with a mob, the way he did so on 28th November 1997. Many political experts believe that this might be the way out of conviction for the former premier since he lost the Senate chairmanship on 12th March so he will not be able to introduce a new National Reconciliation Order (NRO) or enact legislature to curb the powers of the judiciary.
The tenure of the current PML-N government will be over in June this year. If the judgment of the accountability court comes before the tenure is over then Nawaz and family would be able to obtain pardon from the current PML-N president Mamnoon Hussain but if the tenure is over, Hussain will also be replaced and the new caretaker president, which will most likely be the Senate chairman Mir Sadiq Sanjrani, is unlikely to give a pardon to Nawaz.