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Including ISI and MI officers in the JIT was unnecessary and inappropriate: Nawaz Sharif

22 May, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday told an accountability court hearing corruption references against him and his family that the strained civil-military relations and inclusion of military officers influenced the joint investigation team (JIT) report into Panama Papers case.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo recorded answers to 55 questions in the Avenfield properties reference before the accountability court.

During the hearing prior to recording his statement, Nawaz said that the inclusion of ISI and MI officers in the JIT was ‘unnecessary and inappropriate’. “There are and always have been reservations against the joint investigation team (JIT) members,” he said.

The JIT comprised six members, including its head Federal Investigation Agency Additional Director Wajid Zia, Amer Aziz of the State Bank of Pakistan, SECP Executive Director Bilal Rasool, Irfan Naeem Mangi of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Brigadier (r) Nauman Saeed of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Brigadier Kamran Khurshid from the Military Intelligence (MI).

“One of the most aggressive members – Brigadier Nauman Saeed from ISI – was a source employee under a contract which is not recognized as legal, and officially neither his association with ISI nor his pay is reflected in any official record,” Nawaz read. “Brigadier Nauman Saeed was also one of the members of the inquiry committee which has inquired into the issue relating to Dawn leaks which had further heightened the civil-military tensions,” he said. “Their appointments were inappropriate with the obvious fallout on the JIT proceedings given the civil-military tension that have plagued the country throughout its 70-year history.”

On Bilal Rasool, the former prime minister said that he is the nephew of former Punjab governor Mian Azhar. Nawaz said that Azhar’s son Hamid Azhar was photographed with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on August 24, 2017. “The picture was taken at Imran’s house in Banigala,” he said, adding that Rasool has criticised the PML-N government in the past and that his wife is a fervent supporter of the PTI.

Nawaz also expressed his reservations over inclusion of Amer Aziz in the JIT. A representative of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Aziz was also part of a NAB investigation team that probed Hudaibiya Paper Mills case during Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf’s regime.

He said that JIT member Irfan Mangi has a case pending against him in the top court. With regard to Wajid Zia, Nawaz said that the JIT head employed the services of his cousins for the probe.

During the JIT investigations, a controversy erupted after Zia hired the services of his cousin’s law firm in UK to investigate assets of the Sharif family.

The PML-N leader said that Zia’s biases in the investigation process have been evident from the day one.

Nawaz denied ownership of the London properties and told the court that he had not been privy to any transactions for the acquisition of the properties. “I was never involved in or associated with the acquisition of the London properties through any real or beneficial title.” He added that none of the documents produced by the prosecution connected him to any money trail leading to the Avenfield apartments.

Speaking on Tariq Shafi’s affidavits, Nawaz said, “His affidavits cannot be used against me under any provision of law. Any use of the contents of the two affidavits would tantamount to gross violation of Article 10-a of the Constitution – the right to fair trial.”

The ousted premier also said that he had no connection and was never associated or involved with Gulf Steel Mills.

Addressing claims that Shehbaz Sharif and Shafi rejected signing an agreement in 1980, Nawaz said, “I can’t say anything, as no such denial took place in my presence nor Tariq Shafi or Shehbaz Sharif have been produced as witnesses in the case to depose against me.”

Detaching completely from the Hudaibiya Papers Mills, Nawaz and Maryam said the company was run by Mohammad Sharif, Maryam’s grandfather.

Nawaz maintained that the court’s decision should not be based on Mutual Legal Assistance (MLAs) requests the investigation team asked for, and in some cases, received from foreign countries. “Making JIT report an integral part of the references goes against the SC’s directives,” Nawaz read.

He said the JIT report cannot be read as evidence as it remains a report of an investigation agency, and is not admissible as evidence. “None of the volumes of the report stands as exhibited as evidence as only a selected portion was allowed to be exhibited in court,” he read.

“The JIT carried out a one-sided investigation. They collected selected documents from departments in institutions,” he added. “None of the MLAs sent by the JIT to UK, BVI, and UAE have been produced in court, and the court’s decision should not be based on the MLAs produced or not produced.”

During his testimony, Nawaz said that he could not say anything about the documents his son Hussain had submitted in the apex court with regard to the London apartments.

Responding to a question regarding his address to the nation and his speech on the floor of the National Assembly, Nawaz said, “I never stated on those occasions that I was ever a real or beneficial owner of the London flats. Rather, it has always been my constant stance that I was neither a real nor a benami owner of the Avenfield flats.”

In reply to a query relating to forensic expert Robert M Radley, Nawaz said that Radley was not a ‘font expert’ and that he had admitted in his statement that the Calibri font was available prior to its launch in 2007.

Moving on to questions regarding the Gulf Steel Mills, Nawaz said that he does not directly know where the funds for the creation of the factory came from. “However, Tariq Shafi’s statement suggests that the Gulf Steel Mills were created through loans.”

Nawaz testified that he was not aware of how Gulf Steel Mills ran and was not a witness to how it was sold, adding that his knowledge about the matter was based on hearsay. “Tariq Shafi was neither named a suspect in these trials nor was he called in as a witness in the case,” Nawaz said during his testimony. “It is a reality that I was taken into custody on October 12, 1999. After that I was sent off to Saudi Arabia,” Nawaz said, adding that he is aware that his father Mian Sharif had made Hussain and Maryam Nawaz directors of Hudaibiya Paper Mills. “I also know that Hassan Nawaz was made a shareholder in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills by my deceased father,” he added.

Addressing NAB’s allegations that he failed to appear despite being served a notice, Nawaz said that he never personally received the notice nor was there any evidence to prove that the security officer at his Jati Umra residence received it. He clarified that he directed his lawyers to file a reply after finding out about the notice through media.

Nawaz also said that during the course of the JIT probe and the filing of the references, he was not given the right to a free trial as enshrined in Article 10A of the constitution.

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