The prime minister has made it through the Panamagate case, but just barely. The Supreme Court on Thursday, in a 3-2 judgement on the case, ordered the formation of a joint investigation team (JIT) to continue probing the allegations of financial irregularities and money laundering, while noting that at present, there is “insufficient evidence to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.”
The JIT has been given two months to complete the probe into the premier and his sons Hussain and Hasan, all of whom have also been directed to appear before the JIT. The investigators will also have to present bi-weekly reports to a special bench of the Supreme Court.
The JIT will be constituted within seven days and would include representatives from the ISI, MI, FIA, SECP, State Bank and NAB.
Interestingly, the SC also observed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman remained unable to play his role in the case.
Reading the 540-page verdict, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa asked how the assets were transferred from Pakistan to Jeddah in the first place. “It needs to be investigated how the money was transferred to Qatar,” the verdict read. Justice Khosa and Justice Gulzar, in the minority, called for the disqualification of PM Nawaz.
Among the points raised for the JIT to look into were questions regarding Gulf Steel Mills. “How it came into being? What are its liabilities and where have the sale proceeds been used?” The bench also questioned where Hussain and Hassan managed to put together the means to purchase the multi-million dollar properties and assets in the early 1990s.
The majority verdict also questions how the bearer certificates were converted into flats in London, while continuing to ask about the ownership of Nelson and Nescol, and the sources of the working capital.
It also questions the authenticity of the Qatari letter.
“The same in the case of the NAB chairman. We are constrained from constituting a JIT, but we recommend that it comprise senior persons such as an FIA additional director general, a senior NAB officer, an SECP nominee who is familiar with white collar crimes and money laundering, an SBP nominee, and representatives of the ISI and MI.”
It then directs these civil and military agencies to submit their respective nominees to the SC within seven days.
The majority judgement also suggests that the JIT should investigate whether the PM is a Banamidar while directing Nawaz and his sons to appear before the JIT.
Upon receipt of the JIT report, “issues relating to the disqualification of the PM may be taken up,” says the judgement.
The prime minister is set to address the nation at 7:00pm today.
Addressing the media after the Panamagate verdict, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said, “Every party including Imran Khan, Sirajul Haq should now respect the SC verdict.”
“We will cooperate with the JIT and keep on respecting the court. The opposition kept on questioning our party and they set a court on roads as well.” “PM Nawaz is both Saadiq and Ameen. We have not spent three decades of our lives following him in vain,” he added.
Further, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said, “The split verdict proves that people especially the PTI who opposed PM Nawaz are a minority.”
“Today Supreme Court has decided what Nawaz had already six months ago that there should be a commission to probe if he committed any corruption,” Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said.