ISLAMABAD: Shahzeb Khanzada in his programme on Geo News Wednesday summed up the possible questions Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could be asked during his appearance before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) and his possible replies to these questions.
Today (Thursday) is a historic day when an elected prime minister is going to appear before the country’s institutions to give reply to the allegations and questions raised on him. But what will be or can be the possible questions and their answers.
Shahzeb Khanzada said we lay before you the position the government has taken recently outside and inside the Supreme Court. When the Panama case landed at the SC, the issue of conflicting statements in speeches of the prime minister was raised.
The JIT can ask the prime minister about these conflicting statements and say that you have not mentioned the letter from the Qatari prince in your speeches. The team can tell the prime minister that you say different things about how the flats in London were purchased and why did you not mention Qatar in your speeches?
An important point in this regard is that in the three to two-member decision of the five-member bench, the SC has already rejected disqualification of the prime minister on the basis of these conflicting statements and then the JIT was formed to investigate the matter further.
Will the prime minister endorses the PML-N position that there are no contradictions in his speeches and that he mentioned some points at a certain venue and did not mention some points at another venue. The JIT will ask the prime minister how did he sell Gulf Steel Mills, Dubai, and then make an investment in Qatar. It will also ask the PM about the transfer of money from Qatar to Jeddah and from Jeddah to London.
The PM can obviously, as has been the stance of his party in recent days, take benefit of the law, telling the JIT that he will not reveal what he is not required to under the law. The PM can also say that all these affairs are about his father and assets were transferred to his children from his father, hence he has nothing to do with it.
He can say that he has announced his disassociation from his business since he joined politics; hence, he is not liable to answer these questions. He can also say that he is not bound to make explanations about his accounts older than five years.
The prime minister can also repeat the argument his son Hussain Nawaz’ lawyers placed before the court about the sale of Dubai mills, investment in Qatar, dispatch of the letter of Qatari prince and how all these matters were settled down. The important point is that the PML-N and Sharif family lawyers had mentioned the Qatari letter in their arguments.
What the PM will say about why did he not mention the Qatari letter in his speeches? Sharif family lawyers have made it clear that permission for mentioning of the letter was not sought from the Qatari family and it was not mentioned in the speeches because of business deals with them. However, when the matter landed in the court, the letter was put on the record with prior permission from the Qatari family.
The PM will be asked about the accumulation of assets of his children when their ages were very low. The PML-N has taken a position that the PM can also adopt saying that all these assets were transferred to his children from his father and they had made an investment in Qatar after selling mills in Dubai, which continued multiplying later. Hussain Nawaz had told the Panama bench how these assets continued multiplying and then how they were settled in the shape of London flats. He had also told the bench how the Qatari family paid expenses incurred by Hassan Nawaz and how the rent of flats was adjusted in this regard. The PML-N has already taken this position. The prime minister can, however, tell the JIT that he is not bound under the law to answer this question.
The JIT’s fourth question could be about investments made by Hussain Nawaz and the companies owned by Hassan Nawaz. How this huge investment was made in Saudi Arabia and how Hassan Nawaz made so many assets in the UK. The PM can say that his children adults and he is not bound to put up a reply on their behalf. He can also endorse the reply submitted by his children, not least Hussain Nawaz, mentioning that a bit of investment was transferred from Qatar to Saudi Arabia to set up a mill there, whose profit was transferred to the UK.
The JIT can ask the PM about the costly gifts he received from Hussain Nawaz. This is a fresh issue as money came to the PM’s accounts from his son. The PM cannot say that he is not bound to answer this question. He can, however, rely on the answer Hussain Nawaz submitted in the court stating that all the transactions were made through official banking channels and all the money has been duly audited and taxed in Saudi Arabia. He had stated that this money was surplus in his company which is proven through audit.
The PM will be asked about Hudaibia Paper Mills case. The JIT has sought and reviewed all documents about this case already. Questions could be asked of the PM about the investigations launched by the FIA and NAB. The JIT has raised a lot of objections on the PM’s House and Sharif family has raised a lot of objections on the JIT. The SC has given no judgement on this matter so far.
Khanzada asked Talat Hussain what could be the possible outcome of the PM’s appearance before the JIT today. Talat Hussain replied that he cannot speculate about the outcome but today is a historic day for Nawaz Sharif. He said it is the most important day in the political career of Nawaz Sharif in his opinion. He said as much as he could get from the close circles of the government, the PM will not make any lengthy statement as per advice of his lawyers. He is an elected prime minister, a MNA and his reliance will be on the process of scrutiny of assets in the electoral process. He said conduct of election and his going through all the process of scrutiny can be his strongest defence. A MNA, much less a PM, goes through all the scrutiny of assets during the electoral process, he said. If his papers were accepted for contesting elections, then no more questions could be asked of him. Talat Hussain said he thinks that he will not talk on behalf of his sons, who already have appeared before the JIT. He said there will be an outpour of a lot of heat outside the JIT. Not only the PM and his family, the JIT has included in the annexure the newspaper articles they thought are a cause of stress or part of blackmailing campaign against them, adding that one of his articles is also mentioned in this category. Hussain said it is a different topic if the JIT should do it or not.
Khanzada said the JIT has also included in the annexure the editorials he quoted in his programme and the tweets somebody uploaded on social media.
Talat Hussain replied that there are too many sacred cows in Pakistan and another sacred cow is in the making about which you cannot express your opinion. He said there is talk of gag orders on freedom of expression. He said interesting is the fact that the JIT will cross question the PM after his statement that he may give in writing or be in the shape of notes. He said we do not know the length and duration of this cross-questioning. He said it remains to be seen if the PM will carry with him his protocol or not as it is essential to secure the premises where he is going. He said you know security and intelligence detail of the PM and it is not a tradition in Pakistan for a PM to carry his own bag along.
He said environment of the inquiry room will be of interest to the people as the leaked picture of the PM’s son has created a debate though it is of little value in the eyes of learned judges. He said it needs to be viewed whether the PM will be made to sit like an accused or will he be treated like a PM, which he obviously is. He cannot take leave for three hours and it will be seen if he carries his protocol and detail with him or not, said Talat Hussain.
Khanzada thanked Talat Hussain. He said it is important, as Talat Hussain said, to see if the PM is made subject to cross questioning or not. He said if the PM says he will not speak on behalf of his children and father, even then he will be cross-questioned or not?
He said the sight of PM going to JIT with security detail and protocol or without it will be seen today but it is interesting to see what happened in the court in response to the criticism of JIT.
Shahzeb Khanzada analyses that the situation is very interesting. Levelling allegations is on its peak. Strong statements are appearing. The JIT’s severe charges have also appeared after the allegations of the government. In this scenario, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will appear before the JIT today (Thursday), will answer the JIT’s questions and will appear before the same JIT about which the N-League has raised serious objections, has issued strong statements and the important thing is the JIT too has levelled serious allegations against the Prime Minister House and its subordinate institutions.
But there is an important question: whether Prime Nawaz Sharif’s statement would also be recorded.
In this connection, the Supreme Court’s special bench has reserved its judgment on the objections of the PML-N, which could be announced any time. Now would it be announced today before the prime minister’s appearance (before the JIT)?
During the hearing of Hussain Nawaz’ objections yesterday (Wednesday), Khawaja Haris, the counsel for Hussain Nawaz, argued that the JIT has confessed to having leaked the picture. A commission should be formed on the issue, which should determine the responsible.
Khawaja Haris further said that there should be no video recording during the interview before the JIT. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is to appear today. What is the guarantee that the video of the prime minister’s interview would not be leaked? Who would be responsible if the prime minister’s video recording surfaced on social media? Video could also be tampered with and tomorrow this recording may also be used against us. If video is leaked, its effects would be more than that of the current situation.
Justice Azmat Saeed asked what damage you suffered due to leakage of the picture.
Justice Ejaz-ul-Ahsan said video recording would rather protect you than causing damage.
Besides the lawyer for Hussain Nawaz, the attorney general also opposed the video recording of those appearing in person and informed the court that there is no mention of video recording in the law.
The court has reserved the verdict after hearing the arguments. Now when this judgment would be announced? Whether Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s statement would also be recorded? Reservations are already being expressed what would happen if it is leaked.
Hussain Nawaz has submitted his reply in connection with the video recording to the Supreme Court, in which it is argued that the allegations levelled against him are based upon lies and ill intentions. The JIT members cannot escape the responsibility of leaking the image. The JIT has no authority to formulate SOPs different to the law. The manner in which the statements were recorded shows the JIT’s ill intentions.
Hussain Nawaz wrote this in his reply and levelled the charge of ill intention. The JIT didn’t follow the professional ethics during recording the statements. The investigation by JIT into the leaked photo is illegal.
The Supreme Court will now give its verdict on video recording. But if this judgment is not given before the prime minister’s interview then the chances are that the prime minister’s statement would also be recorded.
Apart from it, the court gave strict remarks over complaint of the JIT. The bench head Justice Ijaz Afzal remarked that obstructing the working of the JIT is violation of court orders. These hurdles will not at all be tolerated, he remarked and ordered that the completion of investigation within 60 days at any cost. Justice Ijaz Afzal also directed the attorney general to look into the reservations of the JIT and submit his reply by today. The court would continue hearing today also.
The recent comments of the JIT have invited reaction. The JIT had told the Supreme Court that the SECP, NAB, IB and the law ministry were obstructing its work and tampering with the record. Meanwhile, an accusation was levelled about the Prime Minister’s House that it was pressurising witnesses. The law ministry dismissed the JIT accusation. Its spokesman said the impression of delay in issuing notification of powers to the JIT is wrong. He said the court orders were implemented within two days. The Supreme Court order was forwarded in writing by the attorney general the same day.
In view of the urgency of the matter, the summary was forwarded to the cabinet on May 17 for approval. The Cabinet Division informed the very next day regarding approval of the cabinet. A copy of the notification was also sent to the JIT chairman who acknowledged receipt of the notification on May 18. Action on every order of the JIT was taken as soon as possible.
Besides, the FBR also rejected the JIT accusations in its press release and took the stance that the JIT sought record four times on May 8, 25, 29 and June 8 which was provided on time. The record of one person from 1972 was demanded and was furnished on June 12. The JIT was told that the available record was sent. The JIT was given record in parts because it was sought as such.
Some record was not furnished to the JIT which has its own reasons.
According to law, the FBR is bound to keep the record for up to six years. For access to the record older than this, the FBR wrote to its field officers to search the record which they did.
Apart from this, the JIT levelled most serious accusations on the SECP to which the SECP maintained that the JIT had sought the record of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills and details of correspondence with the British organisations which were provided on May 17, 2017. The JIT was told that more record was being searched. After further investigation, the record of Ramzan Sugar Mills was handed over to the JIT on May 19. On June 2, some missing documents about Brothers Steel Mills, Ittifaq Foundry and HDA Security were found in Lahore which were forthwith provided to the JIT. On June 9 at 7pm, the record of some 45 companies was sought from the SECP which was given to the JIT on June 13 by collecting it during the weekly holiday. The SECP further wrote in its reply that declaring nomination of Ali Azeem Akram mala fide was inaccurate. Similarly, it is not right to accuse the chairman over the WhatsApp call dispute. It is still unknown whether these calls were made by the Supreme Court registrar or someone else. An investigation into the matter can reveal the reality.
This story was originally published in The News