ISLAMABAD: The counsel for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday informed a five-judge larger bench of the Supreme Court hearing the Panama Papers leaks case that Maryam Nawaz had never been the dependant of her father since she married in 1992.
Salman Aslam Butt said that in his nomination papers for the 2013 general elections from the NA-120 constituency, the prime minister had mentioned himself and his wife Kulsoom Nawaz as dependants, and not his daughter Maryam.
The counsel will continue his arguments on Wednesday, while Advocate Naeem Bokhari, representing PTI chief Imran Khan, and Awami Muslim League president Sheikh Rashid concluded their arguments on Tuesday.
Judge seeks response to three key allegations levelled by petitioners
But before commencing his arguments, Mr Butt was asked by Justice Ijazul Ahsan, a member of the bench, to respond to the allegations levelled by the petitioners that the prime minister was indirectly the owner of the London properties, that no legitimate paper trail existed to show how resources for purchasing these flats were generated and how the funds reached offshore companies Nescoll Limited and Nielson Enterprises Limited.
Justice Asif Saeed Khosa pointed out that innuendos had been made that the prime minister was behind the businesses of his children and there were also allegations that when the prime minister was economical with the truth in his speeches in parliament he fell within the scope of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution entailing disqualification.
The judge observed that in cases like this, the initial burden of proof was upon the petitioner, but when important questions were asked the burden shifted to the respondent to answer these.
Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali asked whether the Supreme Court could stretch its jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution to bypass a proper forum to adjudicate in this matter if the prime minister violated Articles 62 and 63.
Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed reminded the PM’s counsel that merely showing that Maryam was not dependant would clinch him nothing since the petitions were implying that the prime minister was also beneficial of the businesses being run by his offspring and whatever money they earned was coming back to him as gifts.
The judge also observed that in his arguments Naeem Bokhari had raised many important questions which needed to be answered by the respondents.
The counsel argued that the petitioners had misread every document but he would touch upon the allegations that Maryam was dependant of her father, about the trust deed between the children, tax issues as well as the prime minister’s speeches in parliament.
He referred to the 2011-12 income tax returns of the prime minister and said his client had to declare the purchase of a 43-kanal agricultural land in Mansehra district worth Rs243 million in the name of his daughter Maryam because there was no separate column in the tax returns for independent children.
But mentioning of her name in column 12 of the tax returns, Mr Butt argued, did not mean that she was her father’s dependant. System would have not accepted the returns had the prime minister concealed the property because it was electronic filing, he explained.
Later, through a statutory regulatory order of 2015, the Federal Board of Revenue had amended the tax return to include the column to meet such requirement, the counsel said, adding that Maryam was a tax filer in 2011.
In her 2012-13 wealth statement, Maryam had mentioned the property by paying back the money to her father through the Standard Chartered bank, the counsel said, adding: “We also sought a legal opinion from international firm Ferguson and Company which declared that the filing of the tax returns by the father and the daughter register no discrepancy.”
The court asked the counsel to submit the certified copy of the entire transaction.
Earlier in his arguments, Sheikh Rashid narrated, in vague terms, how an investor, Robert Herch, came to Pakistan during the time of former president Pervez Musharraf to claim his share in alleged $300 million kickbacks out of the 1993 Lahore-Islamabad motorway project.
He claimed that the money was stashed in Swiss banks, but then finance minister Shaukat Aziz had ignored the Mr Herch’s demand. Mr Rashid said he had also attended the meetings between Mr Aziz and Mr Herch as information minister.
The AML chief then left the subject causing everybody in the courtroom to guess what he was alluding to. He alleged that the Sharif family was in the habit of concealing money and said that almost 7.8 million people were “carefully listening to us by watching television talk shows” whose ratings had soared due to the Panama Papers leaks case.
Earlier, PTI’s counsel Bokhari said the list of directors of Hudabiya Paper Mills Limited included the names of Mian Mohammad Sharif (late), Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza Sharif, Hussain Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz.
He said that in a case of Al-Towfeek Company for Investment Funds Limited against the Hudabiya Paper Mills Limited in 1999, Justice Queen’s Bench Division of the UK had ordered Shahbaz Sharif to pay $17,719,315 ($17 million) Al-Towfeek Company, whereas Mian Sharif was directed to pay over $14m, indicating that the four London flats were the subject matter in the Al-Towfeek Company case and that the defendants had beneficial interest in these properties.
At this, Justice Saeed asked the counsel to carefully read the document which stated that a subsequent order was also issued in which the charge had been lifted and the court decree was settled when someone paid the fine of 34 million pounds.
Citing a 1998 interview of Hussain Nawaz to BBC’s Tim Sebastian, the counsel said Hussain then was just a student living in Park Lane flats on rent, but in 2001 he became director of the Flagship Investment Company in London which flourished by 2005. How a student on rent suddenly blossomed, the counsel wondered.
Mr Bokhari also tried to establish that Maryam had always been a dependant of the prime minister and lived with him at their family home Jati Umra, extensively travelled around the world, had beneficial ownership of the flats in London, although she paid negligible income tax because she had no income, got lots of gifts, including a BMW car from Dubai in 2006, and also obtained loans from Chaudhry Sugar Mills.
He claimed that before becoming MNA Maryam’s husband retired Capt Mohammad Safdar was also not paying any income tax.
Courtesy : Dawn News