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JIT facing problem in Panama investigation

08 June, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The six-member joint investigation team (JIT) on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it was facing a number of impediments and problems in its probe into money-laundering allegations stemming from the Panama Papers. But team leader Wajid Zia did not explain the nature of the obstructions, nor did a three-judge Supreme Court implementation bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan — constituted specifically to implement the April 20 Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case — ask what was bothering the team. But the bench asked Mr Zia to submit an application to the court in this regard, since there was no secrecy involved. When filed, these apprehensions will be taken up in the open court on Monday, when Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf will also be asked to ensure that all such issues are attended to. Khawaja Ahmed Haris, the counsel for Hussain Nawaz, also filed an application requesting the formation of a judicial commission under a Supreme Court judge to ascertain who leaked his photo on social media. The application also asked the apex court to do away with the practice of video recording of interrogations and asked for an early hearing due to the urgency of the matter. “The photograph released is aimed at humiliating the petitioner and is violative of his fundamental right to human dignity,” the application said. It contended that the JIT chairman could not personally conduct the inquiry since no credibility would be attached to any such inquiry, alleging that the responsibility for the leak rested squarely with the JIT members. The Supreme Court also asked the JIT to come up with its response to the application by Monday. Experts believe the latest application, in addition to a number of ferocious press statements outside the Supreme Court premises by PML-N loyalists, was part of a well-thought-out strategy to put pressure on the JIT and the superior judiciary. Hussain Nawaz had earlier accused two JIT members of being close to his father’s arch-nemesis, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), which was rejected by the court for being premature. The smaller Courtroom No 2 was packed to capacity on Wednesday, when the JIT furnished its second voluminous report, brought in sealed envelopes in the traditional fat leather briefcases. The bench had a cursory look at the reports and then ordered the JIT to re-submit the entire record before the registrar office after re-sealing the same. Expressing its satisfaction over the pace of the probe, the court repeated its earlier direction that the 60-day time frame will remain unchanged and JIT will have to do the needful in time. “We cannot afford to extend a day more; you should understand the time constraint,” Justice Khan told Mr Zia. Both the prime minister’s sons will be appearing before the JIT this week. The elder, Hussain, who has appeared before the JIT four times already, will be appearing again tomorrow (Friday), while Hassan Nawaz is scheduled to appear at the Federal Judicial Academy (FJA) on Saturday. The JIT has questioned Hussain in connection with the purchase of four apartments in London’s Park Lane. The investigation also focused on the establishment of companies by Hassan Nawaz soon after completing his education and the “phenomenal” increase in his business in a short span of time. In his four sessions with the JIT, Hussain has explained the variations in his account with regard to the London flats and submitted the record of the establishment, sale and purchase of Al-Azizia Steel Mills in Saudi Arabia, Gulf Steel Mills in the United Arab Emirates and further investments in steel and real estate in United Kingdom and Qatar. Meanwhile, Hassan Nawaz was questioned with regard to his interview with the BBC, where he said he was a student in the year 1999 with no income of his own. In view of that, how was he able to start his own business in London on April 12, 2001, named Flagship Investments Limited.

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