The Qatari prince, Shaikh Hamad Bin Jassim, in an attempt to ease the pressure on him, or his conscience, or as part of legal strategy of Sharif family, released another letter, dated July 17, pointing out that he is ready to meet Pakistani JIT team in Doha, to record his statement regarding the funds he claims that his family received from the late Mian Mohammad Sharif (father of Nawaz Sharif) in 1980.
The letter is unique since it is apparently written on the official letterhead of Qatar’s Ministry of Law and is stamped by Qatar’s foreign ministry – but this could only be an official formality or protocol for authentication to add value, otherwise Prince Hamad Bin Jasim is not part of the current government in Qatar – as abundantly made clear by Qatar’s Ambassador to Pakistan in his famous interview to Pakistani TV Anchor, Shaukat Paracha of AAJ TV several weeks ago. Its not clear if this letter, at this late stage, when JIT has already submitted its report to the Supreme Court on July 10th, has anything to do with the recent visit of Qatari deletion lead by its foreign minster that met PM Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad.
Read more: Panama case sharpens existing divisions within the PML-N
Possible insecurity of receiving justice
PM Sharif, his lawyers and supporters on media have been making a big issue that JIT, did not record the statement of the Qatari prince; they claim that Prince Hammad Bin Jassim was their witness, link to their claimed money trail. However this debate has been conducted in a way that hides the fact that Qatari prince was never really willing for a normal legal witness statement. He always wanted immunity from the jurisdiction of Pakistani courts and laws. But legally, any one depositing a statement on oath, has to be responsible for the truth of his words; any statement without the burden of accountability is meaningless. The latest letter, from Prince Hammad Bin Jassim, again states that the former Prime Minister of Qatar will only testify before the court or JIT in the case that he is granted immunity and thus will not be subjected to the Jurisdiction of Pakistan’s Law.
This lack of willingness to be held accountable for his statement indicates an insecurity for the surfacing of the truth. A statement provided in a court without the deterrent of accountability is almost as good as having no statement at all for the purposes of the investigation.
Despite this glaring contradiction, which existed from the beginning, one of the objections brought up by the Sharif family lawyers was that the JIT has been unable to provide a statement from the Qatari prince, and thus the investigation is invalid.
But the statement of the Qatari prince, as important as it may have been in the beginning, was of no value to the investigation unless he was held accountable for his statements – and later with the revelation to JIT, from UAE Ministry of Justice, that 25% Share sale agreement of Gulf Steel of April 1980, claimed by the Sharif family as the starting point of their money trail, did not exit in original, the value of Qatari’s statement was lost altogether. But due to the patchy nature of debate in Pakistani media, many still did not understand this point.
But the persistent lack of willingness, on part of Prince Hammad Bin Jassim, to be held accountable for his statement indicated an insecurity for the surfacing of the truth. Now with more revelations, its getting clear that he was prepared to deposit his statement to help the Sharif family, but realized the risks, or was cautioned by his lawyers. Apparently he was charged in a fraud case in UK, a few years ago, and was able to escape prosecution by citing diplomatic immunity. But a statement provided in any court without the deterrent of accountability is almost as good as having no statement at all for the purposes of the investigation.
Read more: Panama case: Is Nawaz Sharif’s political career coming to an end?
An opportunistic diversion
This latest letter from Prince Hammad bin Jassim, comes in almost simultaneously as the Sharif family provided a 17-page petition highlighting their objections to the JIT report. Most of of those objections fizzled out, during the discussion in supreme court on Thursday, and it also became obvious that JIT cannot be blamed for this hole in the investigation due to the unwillingness of the prince to be held accountable.
Qatari prince sent the letters, but was not willing to come to Supreme Court, when matter was first heard in Novemeber/Decemebr; he again avoided the bench under Asif Saeed Khosa between Feb to April and was unwilling to appear before JIT in Judicial Academy in Islamabad. A JIT team was willing to travel to Doha, and interview him in Pakistani embassy but he insisted that he won’t come to Pakistani embassy but will prefer to be interviewed at his palace. It was thus obvious that he is afraid of the consequences of his deposition. Given these series of events, since the middle of 2016, it now appears that the latest letter, of July 17, by the Qatari prince, is merely to shape a narrative by Sharif lawyers to help them in their arguments in supreme court, and to undermine JIT in court and to portray JIT as biased in public imagination and to use this point in a possible trial in a court. But for all practical purposes this letter does not reflect any serious intent to deposit the statement.
Read more: Panama Case: should Supreme Court render the final judgement?
Why Shaikh Hamad is a key player in the Panama case
On November 5th 2016, Sheikh Hamad provided the courts of Pakistan a letter stating that Hamad’s father, Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani had longstanding business relations with Mian Mohammad Sharif, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s father, which were coordinated through the sheikh’s eldest brother. It states that in the year 1980, Mian Sharif expressed his desire to invest a certain amount of money in real estate business of Al Thani family in Qatar.
The document raised doubts from the then Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, one of the being the fact that the letter did not appear to be 3 decades old as it claimed to be. In response to these doubts.
This letter further went on to state that Mian Sharif had invested AED 12 million, which he had received from the sale of a business in Dubai. The proceeds of this real estate business were to be used for the purchasing of four flats: 16, 16A, 17 and 17A Avenfield House, Park Lane, London under the ownership of two offshore companies.
The document elicited doubts from the then Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, one of the being the fact that the letter did not appear to be 3 decades old as it claimed to be. In response to these doubts.
Later the JIT investigations reveled that Sharif family had merely deposited an attested copy of the 1980 Sale agreement, which proved fabricated when UAE Ministry of Justice confirmed that such a sale agreement, for 12 million AED, in name of Tariq Shafi never existed. Both Tariq Shafi and Hussain Nawaz insist that they never saw the original – so its an interesting mystery as to who the attested copy reached their hands and who has the original if any. Tariq Shafi, in his statement before JIT, of which video recording exists, further claimed that he used to receive cash payments of AED 2 million, every month, from Mr. Abdullah Kayd Ahli, purchaser of Gulf Steel Mills, in 1980, and use to pay cash to Qatari prince. However he neither wrote receipts for Mr. Ahli, nor took receipts from the Qatari prince. He also admitted that he never met the Qatari prince but merely made payment to his agents. All these claims, without any evidence of banking transactions, from either side, failed to impress the JIT, and it will be next to impossible for any court – let alone Supreme Court of Pakistan – to accept such statements as evidence of money trail. This is precisely what judges kept on telling Sharif lawyers, on Thursday, July 20, fourth day of proceedings, that they have yet to see any real evidence of “claimed money trail” of the Sharif family from Dubai to Jeddah to London.
Read more: Nation waits anxiously for SC verdict on Panama Case: Euphoria or…