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It is not possible to give a short order in such a case: SC

24 February, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: After a prolonged hearing of the Panama Papers leaks case, the Supreme Court finally closed proceedings on Thursday and reserved its ruling, saying it is not possible to give a short order in such a case.

“We will take some time to deliberate and ponder over every possible aspect,” observed Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who headed the five-judge Supreme Court bench that held 25 near-consecutive hearings over the past month.

However, the judge was quick to add that the court’s decision would be such that it would remain relevant and could be cited at least two decades down the road.

“We will decide the case strictly in accordance with the law and the Constitution, unfazed by any outside clamouring and unmindful of whether it pleases or displeases someone,” Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed observed.

On Thursday, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf’s counsel Naeem Bokhari wrapped up his case by concluding that the prime minister had not been truthful and honest when he addressed the nation and parliament and said that the proceeds from the sale of the Jeddah mills contributed towards the purchase of the four London flats.

He maintained that the prime minister had failed to explain why his daughter Maryam Nawaz had been named as the beneficial owner of the four properties by Mossack Fonseca, and that the prime minister never issued any legal notice to the law firm for claiming this.

Besides, he said, the prime minister had also failed to disclose his relationship with the Qatari royal family, even though LNG gas contracts were awarded to them.

But the high note of Thursday’s proceedings was the right of audience provided by the bench to Imran Khan and Sirajul Haq, albeit with a warning not to make political speeches.

In his short address, Imran Khan said he had not come to the court because of an animosity towards Nawaz Sharif, but to re-emphasise the concept that the country’s leaders should always be above board, honest, truthful and sagacious.

“Even I should be disqualified from holding any public office in the future if I am found guilty in cases pending before the court or the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP),” Mr Khan said.

Sirajul Haq said the court proceedings were a beacon of hope that one day the menace of corruption would be completely weeded out, adding that they had knocked at the apex court’s door after all other institutions slammed their doors on them.

Earlier, Justice Khosa told Naeem Bokhari that if the court treated the documents furnished by the petitioner as valid, it would have to afford the same treatment to the defence’s submissions.

The judge also observed that the court was not going to accept all the documents on face value, adding that 99pc of the 25,000-odd pages submitted to the court deserved to be thrown out.

The difficulty was, Justice Khosa observed, that the meaning of ‘justice’ had unfortunately changed; it was only justice for a party if the verdict was in their favour. Otherwise, litigants always claimed that the judges were incompetent or had failed to understand the matter or were “sold out”.

Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan made it clear that the court would analyse the speeches of the prime minister for its judgement, and that the rest of the material before it might not be worth considering.

The judge also questioned the authenticity of the documents furnished before the court, adding that the bench could not dispense with the normal laws of the country because this was not a trial or accountability court.

When asked what judgement one could expect, PM’s counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan said that Justice Khosa’s words should be taken as a guide. The decision of the court should be respected, irrespective of what the outcome, he said.

“It is first the duty of every party to obey and abide by the judgement and only thereafter do they have the right to criticise it,” the counsel said, adding that any criticism should be polite.

Mr Bokhari was of the view that the Panamagate case was most probably the most important and biggest case in the country’s history — after the 2000 Zafar Ali Shah case which validated the Oct 12, 1999 military takeover.

“It was a great learning opportunity to all of us,” the counsel said, suggesting all the junior lawyers who had just started their careers should get copies of all the cases cited in the matter and start reading them.

He was also appreciative of the manner the judges showed their patience, adding that the contours of Article 184(3) of the Constitution were flexible and not like the Great Wall of China.

But State Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman maintained that the prime minister and his entire family had surrendered before the court and did not hide behind any legal technicalities. Whatever the decision might be, she said, it would be respected.

Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf said the manner in which proceedings were conducted in a cordial atmosphere was unprecedented and the judges demonstrated the utmost patience by providing the fullest opportunity to all parties.

After the hearing, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry was hopeful that even if the PM was not disqualified, the court might accept certain other demands of his party.

“We have raised three main points in the case — the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his son-in-law retired Capt Safdar and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar; the reopening of Hudaibiya Paper Mills case; the filing of references in the Panamagate case under the NAB ordinance and the removal of the NAB and FBR chiefs.”

The hearing’s conclusion immediately sparked all kind of rumours and speculation among those present inside the packed-to-capacity, but relatively smaller Courtroom No. 2.

But everybody, even the bench, agreed that the manner in which proceedings were conducted and the way both sides behaved was unprecedented.

All during the hearings, PTI chief Imran Khan and his Secretary General Jahangir Tareen were regular features, as were other leaders such as Ishaq Khakwani or Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq.

The government side was also represented, without fail, by ministers and advisers such as Marriyum Aurengzeb, Barrister Zafarullah Khan, Daniyal Aziz, Talal Chaudhry and several others.

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