Detailed verdict Says Nawaz Sharif was given fair chance to defend allegations but he failed; however, accountability court can examine ‘undisputable’ evidence afresh
Says Maryam Nawaz is ‘prima facie’ the beneficial owner of Avenfield property
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan, in a detailed verdict rejecting review petitions filed by the Sharif family in the Panama Papers case, said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif tried to fool masses in and outside parliament.
“He [Nawaz] even tried to fool the court without realising that you can fool all the people for some of the time, some of the people all the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time,” said the verdict of the SC Tuesday on the review petition filed earlier by the deposed premier.
The judges dismissed the notion that there wasn’t any link between the respondent No. 10 captain (retd) Safdar and Avenfield apartments, saying that respondent No. 6 Maryam Safdar prima facie happens to be the beneficial owner of the property
The 23-page verdict stated that observations given in the Panama case verdict are tentative. It said the SC verdict [in Panama case] will not have any effect on the references against the Sharif family, for the accountability court, under the Evidence Act, will itself decide whether the testimonies are true.
Moreover, the court ruled that the evidence relating to Sharif’s disqualification was undisputed, and that the verdict does not point to any legal loophole. The accountability court, it continued, can scrutinise the available evidence in the case at length.
DETAILED TEXT OF JUDGMENT:
“Petitioner (Nawaz Sharif) entitlement to salary stems from a written employment contract. Salary in this case, it may be noted, is not salary of the future which was yet to accrue.”
“It was salary of the past six and a half years which had already accrued and accumulated.
“There is also nothing in oral or written form in between July 2006 to January 2013 as could stop the withdrawal of the salary thus accrued and accumulated.
“Therefore, the argument that the salary even if agreed upon under the employment contract, would not be an asset if not withdrawn is not correct.
“… We could not have shut our eyes when an asset of the petitioner […] admitted by him to be his in no uncertain terms, was not found to have been disclosed in his nomination papers,” the judgement states.
“Nor could have we let him get away with it simply because he happened to be the prime minister of the country.”
“… To our dismay and disappointment, the petitioner has not been fair and forthright in answering any of the queries made during the course of hearing. He never came forth with the whole truth. He tried to fool the people inside and outside the Parliament. He even tried to fool the [Supreme] Court without realizing that ‘you can fool all the people for some of the time, some of the people all the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time.’
“Refuge in evasive, equivocal and non-committal reply does not help always. If fortune has throned, crowned and sceptered him to rule the country, his conduct should be above board and impeccable.
“Whatever he does or says must be res ipsa loquitur — it should speak for itself. Resignation rather than prevarication in ambiguous terms is [a] more honourable exit if and when anything secretly carried under the sanctimonious gown of leadership drops and gets sighted.
“Since the prime minister of the country is thought to be the ethos personified of the nation he represents at national and international level, denying an asset established or defending a trust deed written in 2006 in a font becoming commercial in 2007 is below his dignity and decorum of the office he holds.”
In a different passage, the court remarks that Nawaz’s many omissions are “not something to be looked at with a casual eye and outlook. It is not only a legal duty [to declare your assets honestly] but a qualifying test for the candidates who in the later days preside over the destiny of the people. This duty has to be performed without a taint of misrepresentation. This test has to be qualified without resorting to unfair means.”
“Any concession at this stage or any leniency to the candidates or the person elected would be a prelude to a catastrophe in politics, which has already had enough of it.
“Since it is already touching the extreme, extreme measures have to be taken. The culture of passing the candidates by granting grace marks has not delivered the goods. It has rather corrupted the people and corrupted the system.”
SC’S RESPONSE TO SHARIF’S OBJECTIONS:
Regarding Sharif’s team’s objection that former PM’s salary was never withdrawn; therefore, cannot be considered an asset, the SC says that it had initially considered the salary an asset on the basis of the following four reasons:
- It was contractually agreed to;
- It was not a salary which had yet to accrue, rather it had accrued and accumulated over a period of six and a half years;
- There was no written or oral proof that the salary was not going to be collected by Nawaz Sharif;
- There was no written or oral proof that Nawaz Sharif could not have withdrawn the salary.
Nawaz Sharif himself told the court that he had told his son that he would not claim a salary when the decision to wind up the company was taken in January 2013.
To the court, this “unmistakably showed that the salary thus accrued and accumulated till January 2013 was all along the asset of the petitioner; that the power to withdraw or waive it lay exclusively with the petitioner and that he instead of withdrawing it waived it in favour of the company.”
Though the salary ceased to be an asset from January 2013 (when the company was shuttered) “it remained an asset till then and the more so on 30th June, 2012 which is the crucial date in terms of Section 12(2)(f) of ROPA,” the court notes. “[…] It was an asset out and out. It was thus required to be disclosed in the nomination papers of the petitioner for the 2013 General Election.”
The court says that even if it had ignored the definition of the word “asset” it used in the July 28 verdict — “the very admission of the petitioner that he waived the salary so accrued and accumulated in January, 2013 in favour of the company speaks for itself.”
“Had there been no admission we would not have stepped in as we did not step in when the document issued by Mossack Fonseca showing respondent No. 6 [Maryam Nawaz] as the beneficial owner of the Avenfield apartments, was disputed by her. We also did not step in when many other documents disclosing several other assets purportedly owned by the children of the petitioner were disputed.”
‘NAWAZ WAS GIVEN FAIR CHANCE TO EXPLAIN HIMSELF’:
The SC also rubbished the assertion that ousted PM was not given a fair chance to defend himself, saying that Nawaz Sharif was given a fair chance to explain himself and vindicate his position: “[…] we not only gave him a fair chance to vindicate his position before this court, heard him at length for almost two days but also accepted whatever he stated about work permit, his employment contract with Capital FZE Jabal Ali, his position as the chairman of the board and his entitlement to salary which according to him was not withdrawn.”
Hence, “the mere fact that we did not agree with the petitioner when he stated that his unwithdrawn salary is not an asset would not amount to denial of a fair chance to vindicate his position.”
The Supreme Court, dismissing the argument that it transgressed legal boundaries by ordering the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file references against Sharif & Co, says:
“What necessitated the issuance of these directions to the NAB has already been dealt with in paragraph 19 of the judgment dated 20th April, 2017 authored by one of us (Ejaz Afzal Khan),” it recalls before quoting his reasoning why NAB should be the one to investigate the allegations against the Sharifs.
The SC also says that it may have been given some weight “had there been no institutional capture, seizure and subjugation of all the important institutions of the state, including NAB, the Election Commission of Pakistan, the Federal Board of Revenue, the State Bank of Pakistan, the National Bank of Pakistan and the Intelligence Bureau through the cronies and collaborators of the person at the peak, as has been evidenced during the course of hearing.”
“We thus, with our eyes open and minds awake, would not let everything go into the hands of the cronies and collaborators for being taken to a dead end. Once things have been streamlined, they have to be taken to their logical conclusion.”