PM Nawaz Sharif survives in Panama Case verdict

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Finally the most-awaited and historic verdict in Panama Case arrived from the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday acccording to verdict, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif survived one of the toughest political as well as legal battle of his life.

In its 545-page verdict, the head of five-member bench Justice Asif Saeed Khosa announced the establishment of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to further probe the Panama Case which would complete its investigation in two months.

The JIT would include representatives from Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and State Bank of Pakistan.

The Supreme Court directed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his two sons Hussain Nawaz and Hasan Nawaz to appear before the JIT which would submit its report to the bench every two weeks.

The judgment was written by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan while Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justic Gulzar Ahmad wrote their dissenting notes in the verdict.Supreme Court judge Asif Saeed Khosa's Short Order

Supreme Court judge Asif Saeed Khosa’s Short Order

The five-member bench of the Supreme Bench in its decision announced at Court Room No 1 at 02:00 pm said that there should be a complete investigation how the money was transferred to Qatar while the Chairman NAB failed to do his work.

#PanamaCase and #Verdict were top trends on social media since Wednesday evening.  Chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan was present in Supreme Court when the verdict was announced.

The verdict had been deemed to decide the future of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) but most importantly of Sharif family’s political dynasty.

It took almost a year since 11.5 million documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca were made public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), jolting the whole world including Pakistan as its Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family were accused of purchasing four London’s Park Lane flats in early 1990s in the name of the two Offshore Companies – Nielsen and Nescoll – registered in British Virgin Islands.

The leaks triggered a massive demand from the Opposition Parties in Pakistan, seeking an explanation from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif regarding his family’s alleged investment in Offshore Companies.

Eventually, Nawaz Sharif addressed the nation twice on April 5, 2016 and April 22, 2016 in which he presented himself for accountability and announced to form a Judicial Commission to probe the Panama leaks as per Opposition’s demand.

Later under a severe pressure from the Opposition especially Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the prime minister in his address on the floor of the National Assembly on May 16 presented the money trail of his family’s flats, saying they were purchased by selling the Gulf Steel Mills in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Azizia Steel Mills in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The prime minister also suggested to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee to draft the terms of reference (TORs) for the Judicial Commission to probe allegations related to Panama Papers revelations. But the subsequent efforts from the Committee formed to prepare TORs didn’t yield any result for following months.

The Parliamentarians’ failure to reach a consensus over the TORs brought the PTI once again on roads, pressurizing the Supreme Court to take up the issue. In the meantime, PTI, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Awami Muslim League (AML) Chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, Watan Party’s Barrister Zafar­ullah Khan and advocate Asad filed separate petitions in the Supreme Court for disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and others in the wake of Panama leaks.

On October 28 last year, the Supreme Court formed a larger bench headed by the Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali and consisting of Justice Asif Khosa, Justice Azmat Saeed, Justice Ejazul Hassan and Justice Amir Hani Muslim to hear petitions from November 1. The bench while hearing the Case on November 3 announced to form a one-member Commission with full powers to probe the issue.

During the course of hearing, Nawaz Sharif’s Children changed their lawyers as on November 14, they replaced Salman Aslam Butt with senior lawyer Akram Sheikh as their Counsel in the Case. Likewise, PTI also nominated Naeem Bukhari as lead Counsel of its legal team in the Panama Case after Hamid Khan excused himself from representing PTI in the Supreme Court.

However on December 9, the bench was dissolved due to the retirement of Justice Zaheer Anwar Jamali who announced that a new Supreme Court bench would be formed that would hear the Case from the beginning.

On December 31, the new Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar formed a new five-member bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa to hear the Panamagate Case. Other members in the bench included Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan.

But a day before the new bench was to resume hearing the Case on January 4, 2017, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif replaced his Counsel Former Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt with Makhdoom Ali Khan while Salman Akram Raja replaced Akram Sheikh as Counsel of Hussain Nawaz. Likewise, Shahid Hamid was appointed as the Counsel of prime minister’s two other Children Maryam Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz in the Case.

While resuming the hearing on January 4, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa announced to hear the Case on daily basis. During the hearings, most parts of the Case and debates outside the Supreme Court revolved around two Qatari letters submitted by Sharif family in the Court in its defence.

The hearing continued for 26 days and on February 23, the bench reserved the verdict of the Panama Papers Case after counsels for the parties completed their lengthy arguments before it.

In his remarks, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said that as per requirement of the Case, they would announce a detailed judgment which would be remembered for years to come.

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