JIT report should not be used to direct trial, argues Nawaz’s counsel | Pakistan Today

JIT report should not be used to direct trial, argues Nawaz’s counsel

  • Khawaja Haris says report contains ‘opinion, inferences’
  • Says NAB can’t frame charges against ‘Sharif family’, but against individuals
  • Judge approves Nawaz, Maryam’s three-day exemption request 

ISLAMABAD: Deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s defence counsel Khawaja Haris on Monday argued that the Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report should not be solely used to direct proceedings of the corruption trial as the court needs to forge its own path.

The lawyer made the submission as the accountability court resumed hearing of the Avenfield reference against the Sharif family.

The Avenfield reference, pertaining to the Sharif family’s London properties, is among three references filed against the Sharif family by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) last year in the light of the Supreme Court’s directives in the Panama Papers case.

As the hearing went underway, Judge Muhammad Bashir observed that none of the accused were in court.

Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Haris informed the court that Captain (r) Safdar would appear in court shortly. He further said that Nawaz and his daughter Maryam were both abroad. Khawaja Haris submitted a plea on behalf of Nawaz and Maryam seeking a seven-day exemption from the case. The court, however, granted a three-day exemption to the deposed premier and his daughter in view of Begum Kulsoom’s deteriorating health. Nawaz’s legal team submitted the medical records along with the petition.

Captain (r) Safdar then arrived in the courtroom.

Haris began presenting his arguments, stating that he would respond to the second part of the statement of NAB’s star witness Wajid Zia.

Nawaz’s lawyer contended that the report prepared by the JIT was unacceptable as evidence in the Avenfield case.

Discussing the letters sent to the JIT by the Qatari prince in response to the former’s queries, Nawaz’s lawyer asserted that the letters had nothing to with his client. He further stated that the JIT had mentioned contradictions in the two letters. “It was the court, not JIT’s job to discuss the contradictions,” he said.

In arguments related to the Gulf Steel Mills, Haris said that the JIT and its head, Wajid Zia, pointed out that there was no record of the AED12 million transaction, however, the documents Zia reads from have already been submitted in court. “Why should a witness read the documents again and again? A witness can’t read them out, he is going beyond his scope, and this part of his statement should be kept out of evidence as it is implied opinion without evidence,” he argued.

The defence lawyer argued that a summary of documents not presented by his client could not be used against him. Haris said that the investigation officer’s opinion could not be considered as acceptable evidence.

He further stated that the JIT report cannot be made part of the evidence, as implied before, because it “contains opinions and inferences” of the investigation team. Furthermore, Haris argued, “It is the court’s job to draw inferences, JIT can’t state that such and such documents need to be produced, that’s the court job. The JIT being an investigative team, cannot ask the defence to produce documents.”

He also stated that Tariq Shafi and Abdullah Elahi among others were not made part of the proceedings and were not made part of references so the defence had no opportunity to cross-examine them. “There is ambiguity with regards to their role in the case.”

“Only what the accused submitted in court can be used against them, nothing else,” Haris argued. “It’s JIT’s mala fide to include the whole Sharif family in the case. Whenever they fail to mention a specific role, they say Sharif family. Nawaz is being charged under Section 9A5 of the Accountability Ordinance of 1999 but no specific role has been attached to him.”

Haris argued that the JIT and NAB’s use of the term ‘Sharif family’ is vague in nature and in a case, specific charges have to be framed on individuals and naming the Sharif family holds no value until individuals in question are indicted.

“Prosecution has to be specific on who counts in the Sharif family and who has a role in it. Defence needs to be specified,” he added. “Nawaz isn’t involved in the Al Tawfiq case or the London properties nor was he involved in any of the transactions.”

In the last hearing on June 23, Haris in his concluding arguments said the prosecution had to prove the ownership of the London flats in the case. He reiterated that his client was neither the beneficial owner of the London apartments nor had anything to do with the properties.

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