The apex court of the country, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, will announce the much awaited judgment today that political analysts say would change politics forever. The matter at hands is basically about alleged corruption because the apex court will be giving a judgment over the petitions seeking disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif the names of whose children- sons Hassan and Hussain and daughter Maryam- were revealed in the infamous Panama leaks that detailed a names of politicians, government officials, and businessmen who own offshore companies in places better known as ‘tax havens’. The Papers had also revealed financial wheeling and dealing of over 200 Pakistanis including the late Benazir Bhutto, Rehman Malik and other prominent politicians and businessmen.
The following is a brief chronological run of the Panamagate case.
In late September, 2016 a three-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by the then Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali and comprising and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Khilji Arif dismissed objections of the Court Registrar over petitions seeking disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the court ordering constituting a bench to initiate further proceedings. The petitions were filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Jamaat-i-Islami, Watan Party as well as a private person.
The apex court fixed November 1, 2016 for the hearing of the Panama Leaks, which by then had come to become popular as Panamagate case. A five-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justive Amir Hani Muslim, Justice Azmat Saeed, and Justice Ijazul Hassan Hussain took up a set of petitions which were moved by Advocate Tariq Asad, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq, PTI chief Imran Khan and Awami Muslim League head Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. Prior to the hearing notices were issued to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam, sons Hussain and Hassan and son-in-law retired Capt. Mohammad Safdar, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, NAB chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, the Federal Investigation Agency, Election Commission of Pakistan, Federal Board of Revenue and the secretaries of law, parliamentary affairs, cabinet division, establishment division and information for the hearing. Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali was also directed to assist the court.
On the first hearing on November 1, 2016 court directed petitioner PTI and respondent PMLN to submit Terms of Reference (ToRs) on the formation of a judicial commission adjourned the hearing till November 3.
On November 3 the court decided that a single-member commission be headed by an apex court judge will be formed to probe revelations made in the Panama Papers after reviewing all replies. The National Accountability Bureau told the court that it is beyond its scope to probe the Panama Leaks case. The then Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali said during the hearing that the court was not bound to accept the ToRs of any party. Only Awami Muslim League submitted its proposed ToRs and the court directed all parties to submit their ToRs day after. The children of the prime minsiter- Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz- did not submit their responses and a displeased court asked their counsel to submit the responses on Monday November 7.
The three children of the prime minister- Maryam, Hassan, and Hussain submitted their written replies through their counsel Salman Aslam Butt on November 7. Butt informed the court that Hassan Nawaz has been running a business lawfully for the last 22 years and Hussain for 16 years and that Maryam Nawaz is not dependent on the prime minister and also denied that she was or is a beneficiary owner of Nielsen and Nescoll syaing that she is only a trustee.
On November 14, 2016 PTI submitted a 686-page-thick document of proofs against the family member of the prime minister. The thick document said that prime minister got Rs 6,146 million worth of loans written-off and that there was an unbelievable expansion in his business after he came to power. During 1998 and 1991 there was a money laundering of Rs 145 million while another Rs 57 million was transferred overseas through hundi- a foreign remittance system in India, Pakistan, and also in Middle East and North Africa which is a parallel to transfer of funds through traditional and legal banking and financial channels.
During the hearing on November 15, the court adjourned the hearing of the Panama Leaks case till November 17 after the counsel of Pakistan Tehreek Insaf Hamid Khan asked the court for granting more time. The reply filed by the counsel of prime minister’s three children plead the court to dismiss the case because the allegations were not true.
On November 17, 2016 the court directed the lawyer of PTI’s counsel Hamid Khan to submit additional proofs. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had commented that since accountability has to start from somewhere starting it with the rulers will take the things forward.
During the next hearing on Nov 30 the court directed PTI’s lawyer Naeem Bukhari to wrap up his arguments on the next hearing.
On December 6, 2017 Bukhari completed his arguments as directed by the court on the last date of hearing. He had also he submitted his remaining arguments in writing. Bukhari had said that Shahbaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, and Hussain Nawaz were the directors of Hudabiya Paper Mill while Mian Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza Shahbaz, Shamim Akhtar, Sbiha Akhtar , and Maryam Nawaz were in the board of directors of London flats in January 1999 and a London court had also issued an order that same year.
The counsel of Prime Minister Salman Aslam Butt started arguing his side of the case on December 7. The court also directed all the parties to the case to submit submission over the formation of a commission to probe Panama papers.
On December 9, 2016 the court adjourned the hearing of the case till first week of January after the then Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali said that since he is retiring a new bench had to be constituted to hear the case.
Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali retired on December 30, 2016. On December 31, 2016 the new Chief Justice Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, who took oath of the office the same day constituted a five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court (SC) for begin hearing the Panamagate case from January 4. The bench was to be headed by senior most Judge Justice Asif Saeed Khosa with Justice Ijaz Afzal, Justice Gulzar Ahmad, Justice Sheikh Azmat and Justice Ijazul Hasan as members.
On January 3, 2017 PTI more documentary evidence including letters written by Mossack Fonseca to Maryum Nawaz over beneficial owners and email record, besides transcript of an interview of Nawaz Sharif with a private TV Channel. On the same day Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif changed his counsel- from now on he would be represented by former Attorney General Makhdoom Ali Khan in place of Salman Aslam Butt.
The newly constituted bench began hearing the case on January 4 and Justice Khosa declared that the case would now be heard on daily basis.
The hearing of the case remained suspended from nearly a fortnight from February 1-14 after Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed was hospitalised for treatment of cardiac problem. When the hearing resumed on February 15, 2017 Salman Akram Raja, the counsel of prime minister’s son Hussain and Hassan Nawaz, picked up his arguments where he had left off. At one point during hearing when Salman said that the Al Thani family handed over the bearer certificates to Hussain Nawaz and the Minerva Company got them the same year Justice Azmat Saeed addressed hin and said, “where is its record and when will you present it Raja Saheb. From day one you are jumping here and there, if their are documents present them.”
On February 16, after summoning Chairmen NAB and FBR the court adjourned the hearing till February 21. When the hearing resumed today the counsel of prime minister’s sons Hassan and Hussain Nawaz Salman Akram Raja continued arguing his side of the case from previous hearing yesterday. Salman told the court that told the court that the registered shares in the name of Minerva Company were issued in July 2006 while Maryam Nawaz remained a shareholder from February 2006 to July 2006 as a trustee during which time the shares certificates remained with her and with the cancellation of barrier certificates Maryam Nawaz’s ceased her share holder’s position to which Salman replied in negative. Minerva Company provided its directors for Nielsen and Nescoll companies while in 2014 the shares were transferred from Minerva to trustee services, Salman added.
Justice Khosa asked Salman that according to him Qatari provided the entire investment to Hassan and Hussain Nawaz and yet no record of such massive business and transactions were kept by you. Is not providing documents a part of strategy, he added. Salman replying in negative over which Justice Ijaz Afzal remarked that if its not a strategy then it must be a gamble which made the court burst out in laughter.
On February 21, Chairman FBR Muhammad Irshad and Chairman NAB Qamar-uz-Zaman recorded their statements before the court as directed by the court on the last hearing. Attoirney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali also argued his side of the case. At the start of the hearing today when Justice Khosa asking Chairman FBR just what is its role over offshore companies added that it is a settled matter that establishing offshoer an offshore company is not wrong he replied that FBR has tried to establish contacts through the Interior ministry. There is no treatty with the related country over Panama issue, he added. Justice Azmat Saeed asked chairman FBR when FBR contacted the interior ministry adding that why it took the FBR to contact the Interior ministry whose office is just 200 yards away from its own office. He also asked chairman FBR when did it issue notices to the owners of offshore companies named in Panama Leaks to which he said that FBR issued the notices on September 2, 2016. The notices were issued to 343 people, chairman FBR added. The court directed the to wrap up his court the next day, that is February 22.
During the hearing on February 22 the Attorney General wrapped up his arument after whic the counsel of PTI counsel Naeem Bukhari closed his side of the case. The court grilled the Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali. At one point during hearing Justice Azmat admonished the Attorney General to give arguments befitting his position and avoid becoming a party. A little later Justice Azmat addressing the Attorney General said, “the NAB died before for us here in this court yesterday, just assist the court just how far it could go.” Still later Justice Ijaz said, “what chairmen of NAB and FBR did yesterday is before us- they are not ready to do anything.” Still later At another time another occasion Justice Azmat called “incompetency just one of the aspect of the case.” The client of Makhddom Ali Khan, prime minister’s counsel, has the certified insurance policy of chairman NAB, he added.
On February 23 PTI’s counsel Naeem Bukhari continued with his rebuttal from yesterday. After Bukhari completed his rebuttal Awami Muslim League’s chief Shaikh Rasheed, who was one of the petitioner, began his rebuttal. As the hearing continued additional security was deployed in and around the court and Supreme Court building in Islamabad to help tackle any probable law and order situation over expectation of important decision in Panama case whose hearing continues at the Supreme Court. According to sources the security was beefed up because a big decision was expected at Supreme Court and due to which a large number of PMLN and PTI workers, supporters, and sympathizers are present in the federal capital. According to Islamabad Police a clash between the workers of the two parties was feared in case the court announced the verdict and thus the stringent security arrangements were being made. CCTV cameras were monitoring the area inside and outside the Supreme Court and no one was allowed to stand in the corridors of the Court. Imran Khan’s security had also been beefed up and his security cordon was extended further and security at his residence in Banigala. The venue of PTI’s press conference was also changed.
Later the same day Justice Asif Saeed Khosa announced that it had reserved the judgment over the petitions seeking disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif due to the disclosures made in the Panama Papers. Saying that the court has to decide the case on the basis of law Justice Asif Saeed Khosa added that “there be no short order of an important case as this while the full order would be announced at an appropriate time; whosoever wants to shout should continue doing it, the court does not care even if 200 million people are dissatisfied with the judgment.”
That “appropriate time for announcement of the judgment of the case” that Justice Khosa talked about has come with the five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice Ijaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmad, Justice Azmat Saeed Shaikh, and Justice Ijaz-ul-Hassan announcing the much awaited verdict of the Panamagate case some just hours from now at 2 p.m. today.
The historic verdict is scheduled to be announced at 2 p.m. today.