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SC announced formation of a special bench to monitor JIT

03 May, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday announced the formation of a special bench tasked with ensuring the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict on Panamagate and closely monitor the working of the joint investigation team (JIT).

The special bench, comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan will announce the members of the JIT on Wednesday (today).

The court also appointed a coordinator to manage all communication between the bench and the JIT.

The case filed in the apex court to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for allegedly misleading the nation on his family's involvement in corrupt practices, as outlined in the Panamagate case, ended on April 20 with the court ordering the formation of a joint investigation team to probe how the family's money was transferred to Qatar. The final verdict was split 3-2 in the five-judge bench.

The special bench of the Supreme Court has been constituted to examine the case and it may also pass appropriate orders in exercise of its powers under Articles 184 (3), 187 (2) and 190 of the Constitution including an order for filing a reference against PM and any other person having nexus with the crime if justified on the basis of the material thus brought on the record before it.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar also approved the appointment of Additional Registrar Muhammad Ali as the coordinator between the JIT and the SC bench on the case.

The newly appointed liaison officer will be assisted by deputy registrar and assistant registrar during the JIT hearings.

The JIT has been tasked to produce a report and apprise the bench with its latest updates every 15 days. The report will be forwarded to the bench via the additional registrar.

The coordinator will also, in turn, forward the directions issued by the bench to the JIT.

In addition to appointing the coordinator, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar also approved establishing a cell dedicated for the JIT.

Sources said there's been a delay in the formation of the JIT as the apex court expressed concerns over the names of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials recommended for inclusion in the six-member investigation team. Sources said that there was a possibility that top court assigns an officer from FIA other than the nominations.

"The court is also reviewing names of officials sent by Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence for inclusion in the joint investigation team," sources added.

In its April 20 judgment, the apex court had ordered the formation of the JIT to probe offshore assets of the prime minister and his two sons. The JIT, according to the court ruling, would comprise representatives from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), FIA as well as officials from the MI and ISI.

It is rare and unprecedented that a sitting prime minister would be quizzed by officials from civil and military institutions for his offshore companies. The premier has all along denied any wrongdoing since the scandal first surfaced when documents from a Panamanian legal firm was leaked by a consortium of international investigative journalists in April last year.

Although the majority of judges ruled against Sharif's sacking, the 545-page ruling did raise serious questions about the failure of the prime minister and his legal team to justify his family's offshore holdings.

Meanwhile, Watan Party Chairman Barrister Zafarullah Khan filed a petition in the Supreme Court to review the split Panamagate case verdict.

Barrister Zafarullah claimed in his petition that the decision for making a JIT was outside the legal bounds, and that the bench should form a commission instead to look into the case. He further claimed that the officials sitting in the JIT lacked experience in dealing with civil and financial fraud cases.

The barrister also prayed to the apex court to expunge remarks such as quotes from "The Godfather" from the script of the verdict.

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