The Supreme Court will deliver its verdict on the high-profile Panama Papers case involving Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children on Thursday (tomorrow), a ruling which could have far-reaching effects on the future of the country’s politics. The verdict is scheduled to be issued at 2 PM on April 20 in courtroom 1, confirmed the supplementary cause list released by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday.
The apex court said on February 23, after both the defence and prosecution completed their arguments, that it would reserve its verdict on the Panamagate case. A five-member bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, and comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, reserved the judgment on February 23. Justice Khosa, on the conclusion, said this judgment would be remembered after 20 years. Anyway, it would be historical judgment and set the future course. According to the sources, the judgment would consist of more than 500 pages and contain additional notes. They said although the judges had decided the case and written the judgment, but they were extra careful, so they did not discuss the Panama judgment in their chamber. Anytime they wanted to discuss it, they came out in the open. Panama leaks case is more political and its judgment would have far-reaching effects on the future of Pakistan. The Panama judgment is important in the context of the general elections being held next year. All the parties, including PML-N, PPP, PTI and JI, would like to use it in their election campaigns. One of the PTI counsel shared with The Nation whether the judgment is in their favour or against them, it would suit the PTI in their election campaign.
The Supreme Court is court of law, and not court of morality. Therefore, it has to decide any case in accordance with the Constitution and the law and can’t act on the wishes. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and many believe the decision will be against Nawaz Sharif and his family and the PM would be disqualified and sent home. The decision is not only about disqualification of the PM on the basis of his speeches to the nation and on the floor of the National Assembly. The court would also have to see whether the PM could be disqualified under articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution as he omitted some facts in his speeches. So far there is no direct evidence to implicate Nawaz Sharif directly in the cases. The sources shared with The Nation that there will be no declaration against the PM, but there will be observation against and the direction for further investigation. Contrary to that the pro-government legal experts have opined the prime minister is not going and is safe. The maximum the court would constitute a commission or independent investigator for further inquiry.
PTI, APML and JI have not submitted documents from the original source. Former chief justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali on December 9, 2016, said if they declare a document of one party unauthentic or accept document of the other, the opposite party would contend they were not given opportunity to disapprove it. Justice Khosa bench has also kept this in mind. The PM and his children had accepted that the London flats are theirs, but they had come into their custody after 2006. The PTI in this regard did not produce any document that these flats were into the custody of Nawaz Sharif or his sons prior to 2006. The PTI has also failed to produce direct evidence that the flats were purchased through ill-gotten money, while the PML-N in defence relied upon the Qatari letter. The court could order further investigation for authenticity of the letter and can’t outright reject it, the experts believe. There is another issue of Maryam Safdar’s ownership of Mayfair flats. The trust deed also needs further probe. The dependency issue of Maryam Safdar on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also requires some investigation. Ishaq Dar’s disqualification on the basis of his affidavit submitted before the magistrate also requires an inquiry.
There is opinion of some legal experts that the court could direct the NAB to file an appeal against the high court order in Hudaibiya Papers Mills. Another issue which dominated the hearing was the onus of proof and shifting of burden. The PTI had failed to provide proof of money trail. The petitions had been filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Jamaat-e-Islami Amir Siraj-ul-Haq, Pakistan Awami Muslim League Chairman Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, advocates Tariq Asad and Barrister Zafarullah. However, a three-member bench, headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali on October 20 had dismissed Zafarullah’s petition to restrain PTI from locking down the federal capital. PTI sought disqualification of PM Nawaz Sharif, Capt (retd) Safdar and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar from the parliament. However, JI did not name the PM as a respondent in the petition, but requested the SC to direct the investigating agencies to probe the Panama leaks. Sheikh Rashid urged the top court to form a commission as it had constituted in the case of Memogate scam. Jamaat-e-Islami on December 3, 2016, filed another application asking the Supreme Court to appoint enquiry & trial commission and declare Panama Leaks papers as its basic document. Later, they changed their stance and filed another application in February for the disqualification of the prime minister on the basis of Panama Papers.
When Panama Leaks surfaced in April 2016, Imran Khan started demanding Nawaz Sharif resign and present his properties and assets for accountability. A day before the PTI planned lockdown of Islamabad on November 1, a five-judge bench, headed by Anwar Zaheer Jamali and comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Justice Amir Hani Muslim, Justice Ijaz Ahsan and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, resumed the hearing of the Panama Leaks case. When the court took up the case on November 2, all the parties gave their consent to the constitution of a commission for further probe of allegations. Therefore, the court asked them to give their formulation for the terms of reference of the commission, which all the parties submitted. However, on December 12, the PTI changed his stance and said they would not accept the commission and rather boycott it. Earlier, Salman Aslam Butt represented PM Nawaz Sharif, his two sons, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz, and daughter Maryam Safdar, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Capt (r) Muhammad Safdar. Later, the PM’s children engaged Akram Sheikh. When then new bench was constituted due to the retirement of ex-CJP Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Makhdoom Ali Khan represented PM Nawaz Sharif while Salman Akram Raja represented Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz and advocate Shahid Hamid appeared on behalf of Maryam Safdar, Capt (r) Safdar and incumbent Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. One the other hand, Hamid Khan earlier represented Imran Khan. When the PTI workers maligned him on the social media, he refused to represent Imran Khan and the PTI chief engaged Naeem Bukhari. Jamaat-e-Islami Amir Sirajul Haq earlier was represented by Asad Manzoor. The JI chairman also changed his counsel and engaged Taufiq Asif.