ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz was the focus of Tuesday’s hearing of the Panama leaks case as the Supreme Court raised several questions about Maryam’s finances and legal status of dependency on her father, the offshore companies and whether the prime minister had told the truth in his speeches and sought answers from them.

PTI’s counsel Naeem Bukhari explored Maryam’s financial situation and said that the premier’s daughter had been gifted Rs 50 million and Rs 31.7 million on two separate occasions by her father. He argued in court that Sharif’s tax returns from 2011 showed that Maryam was his dependent.

The court observed the prime minister and his children would have to prove Maryam Nawaz was not the dependent of Nawaz Sharif and the London flats were not purchased prior to 2006, besides explaining the money trail.

A five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali resumed hearing in the petitions filed by PTI, Jamaat-e-Islami and others, seeking probe in the Panama Papers as well as disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The court asked Salman Aslam Butt, the counsel for the prime minister, to satisfy them whether Maryam was the dependent of the PM or not, on the 1978 tripartite agreement regarding the sale of Gulf Steel Mills and the contradiction in Nawaz Sharif’s speeches to the nation as well as on the floor of the National Assembly.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan said the case of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Awami Muslim League was that the London flats were owned by the PM’s children before 2006, and that there was no legitimate money trail, and how the money went to London for the purchase of the properties.

Justice Hani Muslim said the petitioners’ whole case was that the properties were not purchased through lawful means.

The counsel for PTI Chairman Imran Khan and AML chief Sheikh Rashid concluded their arguments on Tuesday while the PM’s lawyer would continue his arguments in subsequent hearings.

Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa said there was much talk about the onus of proof and shifting of burden. He held the respondents would have to answer the questions raised by the petitioners. Justice Khosa said first it was claimed by the respondents that the London flats were purchased with the sale money of Jeddah Mills, but later it was claimed those were bought with the investment with Al-Thani, a Qatari real estate firm.

The chief justice said: “We are hearing the case under Article 184(3), so we would not stay confined to the pleading only.”

Butt contended Maryam Nawaz did not remain dependent on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after her marriage in 1992. He argued the petitioners claim that Maryam Nawaz was the dependent of the PM on the basis of his tax returns in 2011.

Butt explained that in 2011 the prime minister gave Rs 24.3 million to his daughter for the purchase of 43 kanals of land in Mansehra. That was why he mentioned in the column of dependent in his tax return filed in 2011, “land in the name of Maryam Nawaz”, as the PM did not like to hide anything.

Butt told the court that Maryam did not mention that property during the same year in her tax returns, but in the following years when she had paid back money to his father, she mentioned that property in her wealth tax statement, while the PM excluded it from his wealth tax statement in 2012.

The PM’s lawyer told the court that Maryam Nawaz paid back the money to her father through Standard Chartered Bank. “We like to see the certified copy of this bank transaction,” Justice Azmat said. Salman said he would try to produce it.

Justice Azmat observed respondent No 1, the prime minister, received a huge amount as gifts from his sons between 2011 and 2015. “It means he has beneficial interest in the companies. The respondent will have to establish he has no beneficial interest in the business,” he said.

Naeem Bukhari, counsel for PTI Chairman Imran Khan, said the prime minister should be disqualified under articles 62 and 63 for not being “Sadiq” and “Ameen” (honest and righteous).

He said Yousaf Raza Gilani had been disqualified as prime minister under Article 63. The chief justice told him that under Article 184(3) they didn’t have any jurisdiction to disqualify the PM. He said they should approach the proper forum which was the Election Commission of Pakistan for disqualification of the prime minister.

Justice Khosa said Yousaf Raza Gilani’s case was different from it because he was convicted by the apex court and then on the basis of his conviction another bench of the august court disqualified him.

The PTI counsel argued the prime minister did not pay income tax on the gifts he received from his sons. He stated that Al-Towfeeq Investments which had given loan to Hudaibiya Papers Mills had filed a loan default case in British High Court against Muhammad Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz, Maryam Nawaz and Hamza Shahbaz Sharif as they were its owners and directors.

Bukhari contended that on January 14, 1999, the London High Court passed a decree in favour of Towfeeq Investments and attached the four London properties and also imposed fine.

Justice Azmat said the charges were lifted in February 1999 when $34 million loan and fine was paid back.

Justice Ijaz questioned as to whether the amount was paid by the respondents. Naeem Bukhari replied it was paid by someone else and not the respondents, adding Neilsen and Nescol Ltd might have made the payment. He then referred to Zafar Ali Shah’s case and argued that in that case as well Towfeeq case was cited.

At that stage the apex court was informed that the documents related to it were lying in the British court. Bukhari requested the bench to get those documents from the British Court.

The court noted that there was no conclusive determination of that case otherwise in every election there could have been objection against Nawaz Sharif and on the basis of that he could have been disqualified.

Bukhari argued Hassan Nawaz, in an interview with Tim Sebastian in 1999, had stated that he was just a student and the rent for the Mayfair flat where he resided came from Pakistan. Bukhari said in 2001 he established a flagship company and in 2005 it was flourishing.

The counsel for PTI also argued that, according to the Earl George letter and the reply of Mossac Fosenca, Maryam Nawaz had beneficial interest in Neilsen and Nescol.

Justice Azmat said a firm by the name Minerva, which had been handling the affairs of the properties, seemed to be in the name of Maryam. Therefore, the respondents would have to provide documents related to that firm.

Sheikh Rashid who himself argued the case said the institutions, including FBR, NAB, FIA and SECP, did not listen to them, so they approached the apex court.

Rashid claimed the whole affair of purchase of the flats was connected with the construction of Lahore-Islamabad Motorway.

The case was adjourned until today (Wednesday).

 

 

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