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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court inquired from the counsel of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) why in 2016 the party demanded that an investigation to be carried out first against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and then 436 persons, named in Panama Papers leaks.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PRI) and JI in November 2016 in their Terms of Reference (ToRs) had demanded a detailed inquiry into the funding trail and the transfer of money to offshore companies first of ex-PM Nawaz Sharif and his family, and then of other respondents.

A two-member bench, comprising Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Aminuddin Khan, on Friday, after seven years heard JI Ameer Sirajul Haq’s petition seeking a probe against 436 Pakistanis named in Panama Papers leaks.

The bench framed several questions and asked the JI lawyer, Ishtiaq Ahmed Raja, to file their replies in one-month time.

It made queries whether the petitions are relevant for the tax authorities; whether the FBR, the State Bank of Pakistan and Foreign Exchange laws are relevant in this case; and how money was sent abroad by these persons? It also asked whether it was challenged before the High Court and the Supreme Court.

The bench also inquired from the JI lawyer does this case not fall under the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001; whether the FBR, the NAB, the FIA or the Anti-Corruption Establishment relevant were asked to proceed against these persons. Whether in view of the existing statutory bodies why the inquiry commission be constituted to investigate the matter, and whether any order can be passed by this Court without hearing 436 persons mentioned in the petition.

JI lawyer Ishtiaq Ahmed sought time to answer these questions.

During the proceeding, Justice Tariq said though a question of maintainability would have been relevant but vide SC order dated 03-11-2016 the issue of maintainability had been decided with the consent of all the counsels of the petitioners and the respondents.

He questioned under which circumstances a five-judge bench dealing with other cases related to offshore companies decided the case against one person (Nawaz Sharif). He asked why it took you (the JI) seven years to realise that this issue is of public interest? He asked: "Was the point (during the 2016 proceedings) only to proceed in the Panama case against one specific family”.

Justice Tariq said why did you not say it before the court at that time that the case for named parties should be heard together? "Were the cases de-linked then on your request?"

He further said that the bench had granted you (the JI) such a major relief at that time. “Why didn't you ask the bench to club these petitions? For what reason were these petitions de-linked from the five-member bench hearing the other case?"

He asked the counsel whether in the past seven years, the petitioner had requested any of the concerned institutions to investigate the matter?

"There must be business personalities among the 436 individuals; do you want to drive them away? Creating an offshore company is not a crime, it is seen how the company was created that is to be the point of concern. Issuing such orders against 436 persons would be injustice," remarked Justice Masood.

The JI lawyer pleaded that the petitioners sought an investigation into the accused, but Justice Masood in response wondered why they wished to "bypass the law". "Should we shut down all other institutions?"

He asked, "Do you want the SC to decide all matters?" How the off-shore companies were formed is to be investigated by the concerned institutions, the judge stressed.

Ishtiaq Ahmed said that the petitioners do not intend to target anyone. Upon that, Justice Tariq remarked: “But they did target someone back then.”

“When the SC sits above all and passes judgments, what are all the other institutions supposed to do,” he asked.

Justice Amin said they will not take any suo motu, adding that one wishes to say a lot more but they will show restraint.

Justice Tariq also said that in other judgments, the SC even did things that were not even written. It even went ahead with the disqualification.

JI Ameer Sirajul Haq in December 2016 had filed an application in the Supreme Court requesting to appoint Enquiry and Trial Commission and all persons indicated in the Panama Papers along with their families, children, companies and business entities be made respondents.

It said the FBR and the ECP shall submit copies of tax returns including details of properties, assets, etc., in and out of the country, along with copies of documents and papers before Enquiry and Trial Commission within a specified period.

The Enquiry and Trial Commission shall issue orders and make such arrangements to get information, documents, and papers from other relevant countries/ States as per international laws, pacts, conventions, and treaties including the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) especially provisions of Mutual Legal Assistance Request (MLAR) and Stolen Assets Recovery (STAR) initiative.

The commission shall order the FIA, the NAB and/ or other authorities, as deemed necessary, to investigate or enquire or study the available record, papers and information available on the record and submit a report about the legal position of the matter which is before Enquiry and Trial Commission within a specified period.

The case was adjourned for a month.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Pakistani1 Jun 10, 2023 12:18pm
Seriousness of the court are evident from these 2 excerpts "A two-member bench, comprising Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Aminuddin Khan, on Friday, after seven years" and "The bench framed several questions and asked the JI lawyer, Ishtiaq Ahmed Raja, to file their replies in one-month time." 7 years later they are still wondering about it and who knows when any decision will be taken.
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