Detailed verdict in Panama review case: Nawaz fooled court, people, Parliament, says SC

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a 23-page detailed verdict on the review petitions filed by the Sharif family against the July 28 Panama Papers verdict saying that the ousted prime minister tried to fool the apex court and people, both inside and outside of Parliament, and never came up before the court with a whole truth.

The July 28 verdict had led to disqualification of Muhammad Nawaz Sharif as prime minister for being dishonest. 

Authored by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, the detailed verdict said no error had been identified in the verdict that could be reviewed. 

It said the accountability court was free to make a decision on the basis of nature of evidence presented before it.

On September 15, a five-member larger bench of Supreme Court, led by Justice Sardar Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, had dismissed the review petitions of Sharif family, seeking review of the Panama case verdict.

“Nawaz even tried to fool the apex court without realizing, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time,” it said.

Justifying dismissal of the review pleas, the detailed verdict ruled that the court could not have shut eyes when an asset of the petitioner arising out of Iqama (work permit) having surfaced during the investigation of the case and admitted by him to be his in no uncertain terms, was not found to have been disclosed in his nomination papers in terms of Section 12(2)(f) of Representation  of  People’s  Act  (ROPA).

The court observed that a much higher level of integrity was expected of the holder of the highest elected office of the country, “but to our dismay and disappointment, the petitioner has not been fair and forthright in answering any of the queries made during the course of hearing.”

It further said since the country’s prime minister was thought to be the ethos personified of the nation and he represented at the national and international level, denying an asset established or defending a trust deed written in 2006 in a font becoming commercial in 2007 was below the dignity and decorum of the office he holds.

Quoting a couplet expressing a follower’s feelings about his leader, Justice Ejaz Afzal said: “Don’t talk about this thing and that, just tell us why the caravan was looted - We have no complaint with the passersby, it is a question of your leadership”.

The court observed that even if it was assumed that unwithdrawn salary constituted an asset, omission to disclose it involving a violation of Sections 12 and  13  of  the ROPA calls  for rejection  of nomination papers or at its worst, removal of the petitioner from the public office and not his disqualification in terms of Section 99(1)(f) of the ROPA and Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution is devoid of force when the petitioner deliberately concealed his assets and willfully and dishonestly made a false declaration on solemn affirmation in his nomination papers.

Referring to the argument advanced by counsel for Nawaz Sharif that the apex court had no jurisdiction to disqualify him under Article 184 (3), the court ruled there were precedents to disqualify a candidate who made a false declaration in the nomination papers in the column meant for academic qualification and in another case a candidate was disqualified in terms of Article 63(1)(c) of the Constitution for making a false declaration on solemn affirmation in his nomination paper.

“Nawaz Sharif has been neck deep in business and politics ever since early 80s’ so it is unbelievable that he did not understand the simple principle of accounting that his accrued and accumulated salary of six and a half years was his asset and liability of the company he was an employee of,” says the detailed verdict.

The verdict dismissed the argument that when  no  material  had  come  on  the  record  to  show  any  nexus between Captain (retired) Safdar and the Avenfield apartments, the direction to the NAB authorities to file a reference against him was not sustainable.

The court ruled that Safdar was the spouse of Maryam Nawaz Sharif who prima facie happened to be the beneficial owner of the Avenfield apartments.

The detailed verdict ruled that the observations given in the Panama case were tentative in nature and will not have any effect on the references filed against the Sharif family, adding that the accountability court was free to make its own decisions based on the facts produced before it.

The detailed verdict said: “Refuge in evasive, equivocal and non-committal reply does not help always. If fortune has throned, crowned and sceptered him to rule the country, his conduct should be above board and impeccable. Whatever he does or says must be res ipsa loquitur. (Thing speaks for itself).

The argument that such disqualification is all the more unwarranted when the petitioner has not been given a fair chance to vindicate his position does not appear to be correct when we not only gave him a fair chance to vindicate his position before this court, heard him at length for almost two days, but also accepted whatever he stated about the work permit, his employment contract with Capital FZE Jabal Ali, his position as Chairman of the Board and his entitlement to salary which according to him was not withdrawn. 

The mere fact that we did not agree with the petitioner when he stated that his unwithdrawn salary is not an asset would not amount to denial of a fair chance to vindicate his position.

The argument that another direction to the NAB to file references on the basis of the material collected and referred to by the JIT and such other material which may be available to the FIA and NAB or the one which may come before it pursuant to the Mutual Legal Assistance Requests sent by the JIT to different jurisdictions is an encroachment on the authority of the NAB and violation of Article 175 (2) of the Constitution, could have been given some weight had there been no institutional capture, seizure and subjugation of all the important institutions of the State including NAB, SECP, CRP.NOS. 297 TO 299, 303, 308 TO 312 OF 2017.

The FBR, State Bank of Pakistan, National Bank of Pakistan and Intelligence Bureau through the cronies and collaborators of the person at the peak as has been evidenced during the course of hearing. We thus with our eyes open and minds awake would not let everything go into the hands of the cronies and collaborators for being taken to a dead end. Once things have been streamlined, they have to be taken to their logical conclusion. 

The argument that direction to the NAB to file supplementary references if and when any other asset, which is not reasonably accounted for, is discovered has also been issued without jurisdiction as no provision of the Constitution including Article 187 empowers this Court to issue a direction of this nature is also devoid of force as this Court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution has the power to issue a direction if and when a person performing functions in connection with the affairs of the federation does not do what he is required by law to do.

The argument that the power to superintend the proceedings of the Accountability Court has not been conferred on the Supreme Court, therefore nomination of one of the judges of this Court to superintend them would be violative of Article 175(2) and (3) of the Constitution is also misconceived as this practice has been in vogue since long and the purpose behind it is to guard against intrusion of casualness in the proceedings before the trial court. 

Such practice, by no stretch of imagination, implies that the monitoring judge would in any way influence or interfere with decision-making process of the Trial Court. 

It being completely innocuous to either of the parties would not tend to harm any. Its continuance, therefore, need not be objected to.

 It said the argument that another direction to the NAB to file references on the basis of material collected and referred to by the JIT and such other material which may be available to the FIA and NAB or the one which may come before it pursuant to the Mutual Legal Assistance Requests sent by the JIT to different jurisdictions is an encroachment on the authority of the NAB and violation of Article 175 (2) of the Constitution, could have been given some weight had there been no institutional capture, seizure and subjugation of all the important institutions of the State including NAB, SECP, FBR, State Bank of Pakistan, National Bank of Pakistan and Intelligence Bureau through the cronies and collaborators of the person at the peak as has been evidenced during the course of hearing. 

We thus with our eyes open and minds awake would not let everything go into the hands of the cronies and collaborators for being taken to a dead end. Once things have been streamlined, they have to be taken to their logical conclusion.

At the end of judgment, Asif Saeed Khan Khosa said: “No ground has been taken in these review petitions nor any argument has been advanced at the bar questioning  anything observed or concluded by me in my separate opinion recorded in the main case.”