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Friday, April 12, 2024

Justice delayed is Justice denied: Panama Case nearing the end?

As hearings ended today on the Panama case regarding the Prime minister and his children, the Supreme Court announced said it had reserved verdict. The court announced that it will not be issuing a short order in the case but will release a full judgment in time.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, heading the five-judge bench, said that 26,000 pages had been submitted as part of the Panamagate case and the judges will read “each word” of it. As such he stated this was not a case where a short order could be passed.

“The court will decide the case only after considering the material submitted in the court and will announce its verdict in accordance with the law and Constitution,” Justice Khosa remarked.

This was no doubt disappointing to many in the country, that would have liked the court to reach a conclusion and for the country to move on and deal with other issues facing the nation; not least terrorism. For days, variations on what the court would say have been doing the rounds on what’s app, unfortunately not coming to a conclusion was high probability. The Panama leaks occurred in April 2016, immediate fall out occurred in many countries, in Iceland the Prime minister, had to resign after his name appeared on the list, however, in Pakistan no end seems in sight yet. Recently, the police in Panama have arrested the founders of Mossack and Fonseca, the law firm behind the scandal, on money laundering charges.

read more: Arrests of “Mossack Fonseca” Founders: World Wide Implications?

Naeem Bukhari’s arguments in court

Naeem Bukhari, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s lawyer, recapped his final arguments before the Supreme Court’s five-member bench and conducted an overall review of arguments for his case.

He reminded the court that the Sharif family had failed to provide an explanation for source of funding for the Gulf Steel Mills set up in Dubai in 1974, after the nationalization of their assets in Pakistan in 1973. The Supreme court bench, however, corrected him telling him irrelevance of this statement given that PTI in their original petition to the court had not mentioned these steel mills.

Read more: Corruption: From Panama leaks to PSL?

Naeem Bukhari also referred to documents that had been tweeted in January by German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, which showed Maryam Nawaz’s involvement with Minerva Financial Services. He also reiterated the point earlier made that the prime minister had lied in parliament when he made his speech in May 2016 to explain the Panama leaks. He asked the court, “How can such a person be the prime minister?”

Naeem Bukhari explained if the Panama leaks were not true why had the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif or his children to date not sent notices to Mossack Fonseca to protest their innocence. Mossack Fonseca is the law firm where these leaks of offshore financial data occurred and implicated worldwide figures, including the Icelandic prime minister who was forced to resign.

Naeem Bukhari ridiculed the Qatari letter as evidence pointing out that for over a year there had been no mention of the Qatari involvement and all of a sudden letters were presented in front of the court. These letters showed that the Sharif family had made various investments with help from the Al Thani family, the royal family of Qatar.

The Qatari letter also confirmed that all these loans were now paid off by the Sharif family however, there were no banking records to this effect.

“From 1980 till 2004, the Qatari prince acted as a bank, there were returns on investments and profits were earned,” Bukhari said.

He also went on to question the motives behind the recent government decision to award a 20 year LNG contract to Qatar and implied that it was an award for the ‘Qatari letter.’

Justice Khosa’s announcement

Justice Khosa announced in court that if the court started rejecting unverifiable documents then over 99 percent of those submitted before the bench will be rejected and no progress would be made on the case.

However, in discussing whether Maryam Sharif signatures were fake as claimed by Shahid Hamid, her lawyer, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan asked Naeem Bokhari why they had not presented an expert that confirmed the veracity of the signatures on documents, he asked how can the bench accept documents without looking into their validity. The court would have accepted the testimony of an expert, the bench said.

Read more: Panama Case: Why German Paper’s disclosure may be extremely damaging for Sharif Family?

Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan also observed that PTI lawyer had not been able to establish that the Sharif family’s four apartments in London’s Park Lane neighbourhood were purchased in 1993.

However, Justice Khosa said the bench would give equal weight to all documents submitted before it during the course of the Panamagate hearings. However, he added that none of the documents submitted by the parties in the case had come from verifiable sources. He also observed what he called a disappointing trend in society “justice is whatever has been done in our favour” and “If court issues a verdict against anyone then it is deemed that the judge has been bribed,” he said.

For a country like Pakistan where in all foras the philosophy is ‘scratch my back and I will scratch yours’ there is no question that the Panama case raises questions for all concerned not only in the delivery of justice, but also for political opportunism and stability for the country.