SC dissects PM’s ‘contradictory’ statements on money trail

ISLAMABAD, JAN 10 – A Supreme Court judge on Monday identified “honesty” as the real issue in the Panama Papers case, more so than the Sharifs’ purchase of four London flats or the time of their purchase.

“The real issue is that all statements made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — in his address to the nation as well as the parliament — contradict each other,” regretted Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, wondering whether the person making the statements was not being honest to the people, the National Assembly and even the apex court.

Justice Khosa heads a five-judge Supreme Court bench that is hearing petitions seeking the disqualification of the prime minister over investments made by his family members in offshore companies.

Instead of the smaller court room, Monday’s hearing was held in a much calmer and spacious Courtroom No. 1, where PTI chief Imran Khan and Secretary General Jahangir Tareen were present along with other party members as usual. In attendance from the government side were Information Minister Mariyum Aurengzeb, Adviser Zafarullah Khan, Talal Chaudhry and Daniyal Aziz.

But Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, pointing towards PTI’s Advocate Naeem Bokhari, emphasised the need for caution in deciding a disqualification case under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution on the basis of a statement made by the holder of a public office, which later turned out to be false. “If we start disqualifying people under this pretext, no one will be spared, not even your clients,” the judge observed.

But Justice Khosa explained why the bench was giving so much time to the case: the court understands the consequence of its decision — a decision that should be reached while striking a balance between satisfying the requirements of law on one hand and interpreting law in such a way that everybody should not be disqualified.

“This case is the first of its kind that has come up,” Justice Khosa noted, adding that this was the reason why the court did not want to rush into a decision.

“We know the gravity of a declaration by the court and its affect for both the parties, saying that someone was not honest. But we have to lay down parameters, otherwise, except for the Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq, no one will survive,” Justice Khosa observed.

“The ultimate objective of this court is to get to the whole truth,” observed Justice Ijazul Ahsan, adding that it was understandable that the counsel cannot answer every question because the gaps have to be filled by the respondents (the prime minister and his family).

Mr Bokhari, however, argued that people’s money have been laundered and appropriated to purchase the London flats, adding that the prime minister was answerable for the false statements he had made before the National Assembly.