Saturday , 18 November 2017

PML-N and SC legal contentions

In accordance with the 28th July SC verdict. NAB decided to file four new references related to: Avenfield properties, Azizia Steel company, the 16 companies mentioned in the verdict and a final reference against Ishaq Dar’s wealth. Justice Ijazul Ahsan was delegated the task of overseeing proceedings by NAB and the accountability courts. The NAB chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry also called for the completion of the former 16 inquiries against The Sharif brothers that have been pending since 2016.

Lawyer Raees Abdul Wahid further filed for a petition to add the names of Nawaz Sharif, his children, Captain Safdar and Ishaq Dar to the ECL and freeze their accounts, but the Islamabad high court dismissed the petition.

As the month progressed NAB proceedings witnessed some legal glitches that created some suspicions against NAB.

Firstly, the agency requested for four certified copies of the JIT report in order to finalize the references. The matter witnessed some hiccups as JIT chairman Wajid Zia had asked the SC to keep volume 10 of the report secret due to details of mutual legal assistance with other countries. However, NAB was ultimately granted access to volume 10.

Secondly, it was also believed that the NAB would not rely entirely on the JIT report and instead carry out its own fresh investigations in relation to the four new references. According to some NAB officials the JIT report could not substitute for the Bureau’s investigation as its authors belonged to different institutions and that NAB would collect evidence under procedures stipulated in NAO 1999.

The third issue revolved around adding JIT members to NAB’s list of prosecution witnesses. The agency requested the court to grant it permission to record statements of the six JIT members. This requirement is said to have met some resistance – as the intelligence agencies were skeptical to offer their officials as witnesses. But, ultimately towards the end of the month Wajid Zia along with supposedly three other officials appeared before NAB to record their statements.

The fourth issue revolved around NAB’s summons to the Sharif family members and Ishaq Dar. Summons related to Avenfield properties, Azizia steel and Ishaq Dar’s wealth were issued but the accused did not show up for the hearings, instead they claimed that they had not received any summons.

However, amidst these rumors, NAB picked up pace as the month neared its end.

They issued a statement clarifying that if the accused continue claiming that no notifications have been received, an official would ensure the summons are handed to them in person. Further relaxing the prerequisite NAB sources also added that they would carry forward with the references even if the charged fail to appear for the summons.

The NAB team also probed Javed Kayani( a friend of Nawaz Sharif) who testified opening fake accounts on instruction of Nawaz Sharif for illegal money transfer to purchase Avenfield flats.

Ultimately both NAB Rawalpindi and Lahore submitted their references. The references are now awaiting approval by the NAB executive board. NAB Lahore and Pindi regional offices have also suggested freezing the Sharif family accounts and placing them on ECL. Once the executive board approves the references, they will be sent to accountability courts – the deadline for which is September 11 2017.

Nawaz Sharif and some other PML-N leaders continue to criticize the verdict.

The former PM also raised concerns over SC judge overseeing NAB’s proceedings. Barrister Zafarullah Khan of the Watan Party filed a petition contending that a fair trial under Article 10-A of the Constitution is impossible if a judge of the SC monitors the proceedings. He claims that the accused party cannot get fair trial from a lower court, as it would remain prejudiced by the apex court’s constant monitoring.

Nawaz Sharif -as his legal response to the verdict- filed three separate petitions this month. The first one calls for the court to stay further implementation of the Panamagate Verdict until a decision on ‘review petition’ is taken by the SC- This petition was also later used as a reason by the ruling party officials for not complying with NAB’s summons for hearings.

Secondly, Sharif’s counsel submitted a ‘review petition’ along with some relevant documents related to his ‘iqama’.

The third petition claims that the 28th July verdict should have been given by only 3 judges -who demanded for JIT investigation. But instead Justice Khosa and Justice Gulzar- who had already passed their judgment- signed the final order again on the 28th, which meant that they passed two judgements on one case. Therefore, making the judgement ‘invalid on legal technicalities’.

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