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ISLAMABAD: The International Arbitrator’s judgment has noted that following high-level negotiations involving the government of Saudi Arabia as well as General Pervez Musharraf (retd), former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was released from prison and allowed to travel with his family to exile to Saudi Arabia.

The Arbitration under Chartered Institute of Arbitration Rules, by Sir Anthony Evans, noted that there were several important “milestones” during the period of the Asset Recovery Agreement (ARA). “The first was in connection with the affairs of Mr Sharif.” “He [Nawaz Sharif] was deposed when Musharraf took office in October 1999 and was arrested and charged with various offences.

“Following high-level negotiations involving the government of Saudi Arabia as well as General Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif was released from prison and allowed to travel with his family to exile to Saudi Arabia.

There was a financial settlement in about February 2001, the terms of which are in issue in this arbitration. Broadsheet’s claim for a share of assets recovered from Mr Sharif and his family, who were registered targets under the ARA. Second, another registered target, Admiral (retired) Mansur Al-Haq, was living in the USA at the time of the ARA. “Broadsheet played a part in securing his arrest, which led to his voluntary return to Pakistan. He agreed to pay to the NAB, under a plea bargain, a sum in excess of US $7.5 million, which he repatriated from a bank account in Jersey.”

The judgment said that “during the period of the ARA there were three chairman of the NAB who acted as its principal representatives in its relations with Broadsheet. These were, Lt General Syed Muhammad Amjad from the inception of the NAB in October 1999 until September 2000. Lt Gen Amjad was the only witness with firsthand knowledge of the negotiation and signing of the ARA, as the first chairman of the NAB. Second, Lt-General Khalid Maqbool from 26th September 2000 until 26 October 2001 and third, Lt-General Munir Hafiez from 1st November 2001 until October 2005.

“These three; therefore, covered the whole period of the ARA, including its negotiation and signature (Gen Amjad) and its termination (Gen Hafiez). Nawid Ahsan, who held office from 6th July 2007 until 14th June 2010, was not concerned at any time with the negotiation, signing or performance of the ARA.”

According to the judgment, “Broadsheet was incorporated as a ‘shell’ company in the Isle of Man in May 2000 by lawyers instructed by Mr James. “Second, the scope of the ARA was intended to be limited to investigation and recovery of assets in the USA, Europe and Asia, not world-wide.

“It entered into agreement with the NAB on 20 June, 2000, which ended in October/December 2003.

“A separate agreement, not involving Broadsheet, was negotiated between the NAB and another company, IAR Ltd also represented by Dr Pepper. The agreement with the IAR was signed on 15 July, 2000.

“Jimmy James was chairman of Broadsheet from May 2000 to December 2003, in April he met with Ahmer Bilal Soofi, representing the NAB in London.

“These negotiations resulted in the Settlement Agreement dated 20 May 2008 on which the NAB relies as a defence to the claim.

“It was signed in London by the Deputy High Commissioner for Pakistan in London, Abdul Basit, on behalf of the government of Pakistan and the NAB, and by Mr James.

“The Broadsheet had an office in the NAB’s headquarter at Islamabad and there was active cooperation between the NAB personnel and Broadsheet’s representatives there.

“The NAB contends that ‘any assets recovered’ in clause 4.1 is limited to assets recovered from outside Pakistan, essentially because that it is the scope of the ARA itself and Broadsheet was not concerned with assets inside Pakistan.

“The court found that the formula is ‘any assets recovered either as a result of the efforts of Broadsheet or as a result of a settlement between NAB and [any registered person]’.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan has formed a three-member cabinet committee to look into the Broadsheet issue.

The Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Shibli Faraz, tweeted on Monday, saying the prime minister has formed a committee to look into the matter of Broadsheet.

The committee will be the convened by the Senator Shibli Faraz and the members are Shireen Mazari and Fawad Chaudhry.

He said the committee would make recommendations to the cabinet on the Broadsheet issue within 48 hours, and report to the prime minister.

He said stern action would be taken against all those who had benefited from the matter.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021