Panama Leaks Case: From Courtroom No1

ISLAMABAD: “Prove it that both purchases and money transfer were legal,” a million dollar question judges of the country’s top court asked again and again from Salman Aslam Butt, the counsel for the Sharifs’ family.

Everybody seemed focused on Courtroom No1 on Monday. Silence engulfed the atmosphere. Worthy judges took their seats at 9:30am. Counsels from both the sides went through bundles of pages one last time before the proceedings started.

Mr Butt received close to three dozen questions from five judges during the course of hearing, which lasted 75 minutes. But the question of the defendants’ exoneration captured the majority’s attention in the court, which was being guarded by over 400 security personnel. Hamid Khan, counsel for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), surprisingly did not submit any official documents in support of his case arguing that it’s the job of investigators.

Mr Butt’s written response prompted judges to ask a number of harsh questions. One of judges remarked “don’t waste our time with these incomplete responses.” Answer our question (legality of money trail) otherwise problems await prime minister and his children if you fail to submit satisfactory documentary proof in support of his clients on November 15, remarked Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.

Learned counsels — Hamid Khan, Salman Butt, Tariq Asad, Asad Manzoor and Sheikh Rashid — continued their arguments in the SC where people witnessed around a thousand vehicles of visitors. Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf remained silent in the court packed with politicians, legislators, lawyers, journalists and observers. Mr Ausaf looked busy though no one asked anything from the government’s legal team. PTI Chairman Imran Khan also continued reciting ‘Tasbih’ during course of hearing until Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid whispered something in his ear. Sharifs’ counsel called a spade a spade that daughter of Premier Sharif was trusty of two offshore companies owned by her brothers — Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz.

As standing counsels continued their arguments, many were discussing that complainants’ counsels submitted documentary evidence before the court which were largely available on internet. If PTI, JI, etc want victory in this case, they would have to prove with classified documents that their stance is based on truth, a senior counsel sitting five meters away from worthy judges whispered to my ear. Silence spread for a moment again when judges hinted that they might not form the commission if respondents could not satisfy the apex court next week. But judges made it clear that they would form ToRs if the proposed commission is formed.

Imran Khan smiled soon after judges responded his counsel that a part of allegations proved true today (Monday) after the respondents admitted ownership of under question property. It is now up to Mr Butt’s clients to prove the truth, remarked Justice Azmat Saeed. Then a moment came when observers enjoyed worthy judges’ response to each other where Chief Justice observed that a perception of distrust haunts investigation agencies otherwise they would have ordered NAB to collect all documentary evidence. In response to it Justice Azmat Saeed observed when FBR, NAB and FIA did not extend their cooperation to the top court, they would have to get involved in this case which relates to public interest. This was the time when CJ observed it was not their job what they are doing here.

Then Sheikh Rashid took the rostrum and explained a half cooked story of money trail of Maryam Nawaz Sharif where judges told him this is what they are going to probe. “Thank you sir,” Rasheed took his seat when Tariq Asad, a party in this case, endorsed stance of Mr Butt where both wanted probe of over 400 people whose were named in Panama papers. But judges kept focused on Sharifs’ family. According to them “PM Sharif voluntarily offered himself for accountability.” Media again came under fire when judges amused witnesses when they observed many anchors have even passed judgment in this case. “Ham agar arz kren gy to shikayat hogi, ap hi apni adaun p zara ghor krain,” recited the CJ. On this point Justice Khosa asked politicians not to make SC a press club as they addressed the media persons in front of the SC. Obeying SC, Imran Khan did not talk to media while some government’s legislators forgot to obey the order.

Akram Sheikh also wanted to get clubbed his client’s (Hanif Abbasi) petition seeking probe into offshore companies of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and his close buddy Jehangir Khan Tareen. But judges fixed it separately on the same date. Then clock struck 10:45am when CJ dictated “no further opportunity in this regard will be available to them [respondents] during the proceedings before the commission — as agreed by the learned ASCs for the parties, and as a last chance the hearing of this case is adjourned to Nov 15, 2016.”

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