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Panamagate JIT to submit final report on Sharif family on July 10

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif speaks during a joint news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 12, 2015. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File photo

Islamabad [Pakistan]: The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) will submit the final report in connection with the alleged money laundering by the Sharif family on July 10.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, probably, will be given opportunity to defend himself in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court had constituted a JIT on April 20 and empowered it to summon the prime minister, his sons and any other person necessary, to investigate allegations of money-laundering.

The order passed in the Panama Papers case says in an operative paragraph: “…upon the receipt of the reports, periodic or final of the JIT, as the case may be, the matter of disqualification of respondent No.1 (Nawaz Sharif) shall be considered. If found necessary for passing an appropriate order in this behalf, respondent No.1 or any other person may be summoned and examined”.

However, different scenarios of the court proceedings have been predicted by legal experts after the JIT submits its report.

There is confusion over the forum where the trial of the PM or any other person will be held in case the JIT comes up with tangible evidence against them.

The JIT has been directed by the Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh and Justice Ijazul Ahsan to place the report before it after completing the investigation.

“The JIT shall complete the investigation and submit its final report before the said bench within a period of sixty days,” the judgment said.

The scenarios post-July 10 whether Sharif will get to defend himself in SC are being debated.

For further proceedings, reference to relevant forum was sent and it said, “The bench thereupon may pass appropriate order for filing of reference against respondent No.1 (Nawaz Sharif) or any other person having nexus with the crime if justified on the basis of the material thus brought on the record before it”.

It is very likely that in accordance with the apex court judgment further proceedings against the Sharif family are connected with what the JIT may say after a few days in its report.

Renowned legal expert S.M. Zafar said that since the JIT was a ‘fact-collection’ entity, it would submit the compilation of facts to the apex court.

He said the JIT was tasked with collecting evidence by the Supreme Court therefore the investigation team must keep at their assigned work only. Should the JIT give an opinion, it would be tantamount to going beyond its mandate as its opinion might favour one or affect another party, he added.

Moreover, two of the five-member bench had called for disqualification of the PM divulging their mind therefore it seemed that they would not resume the bench. Subsequently, the three other members might take up the report and proceed with the case, he added.

Zafar said that the court might provide copies of the investigation report to the petitioners and the respondents and invite their comments or objections.

After hearing the parties in the case, the court might pass a final verdict on disqualification of PM Sharif or other persons, he said. The court may either disqualify the PM or exonerate him or send a reference against him to an appropriate forum.

The appropriate forum might be an accountability court or the special judge central, he said.

In case the Supreme Court, on the basis of available material, found that the PM was not honest and sagacious, it might disqualify him or send the matter to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Earlier, former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had sent several parliamentarians home for contesting elections on the basis of fake degrees.

But the case of the PM was different as he had not submitted any false declaration before the ECP, therefore, the apex court might consider his case under Article 62 and 63 of the constitution, he said.

Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Kamran Murtaza, said that the court would provide an opportunity of hearing to the parties, particularly those who might be affected by the investigation report. “It may order to make the report open at least for the parties in the case and then start hearing the matter,” he said.

Murtaza was of the view that the apex court could not disqualify Mr Sharif as it would be against the principle of natural justice. On the composition of the bench, he said that should the two members of the bench, on the basis of earlier dissenting note, recuse themselves from hearing the case, the chief justice might re-constitute the bench.

“If some respondents file an application seeking a large bench, the same bench would pass an order on the application,” he said. “The application may be forwarded to the CJP for appropriate order or may be dismissed by the bench”.

Former vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council Mohammad Ramzan Chaudhry said that the five-member bench had requested Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar to constitute a special bench to ensure implementation of the judgment. The chief justice could have constituted a bench comprising judges other than those who were in the five- member bench, but he formed the special bench comprising three judges of the same bench.

Chaudhry Faisal Hussain said that the implementation bench would place the JIT report before the five-member bench, which might re-consider the case on the basis of the JIT report and the evidence already available with the bench. (ANI)