Panamagate case: Supreme court grills NAB, FBR for not probing Sharif family

As the Panamagate case hearing resumed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the five-judge larger bench of the apex court questioned heads of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for not taking appropriate steps to investigate the Panama Papers scandal.

During the proceedings of the case, the court asked NAB chairperson Qamar Zaman Chaudhry about the steps undertaken by the accountability watchdog in the Panamagate case. In his response, Chaudhry said he was waiting for the clearance of ‘regulator’ in the matter.
Upon this the five-judge bench, which is hearing a slew of petitions against the Sharif family’s alleged corruption in the ongoing Panamagate case, expressed its wonder, asking who the chairperson’s regulator was. “Are you regulated by someone?” Justice Gulzar Ahmad asked the NAB chairperson.
Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who is heading the apex court bench, also wondered that the term “regulator” was also used by the Qatar prince in his letter, written in favour of the ruling family, to the court. “I have been unable to understand who the regulator is in Pakistan,” he remarked.
When the bench asked the NAB chairperson whether or not he still intended to file a reference against the four-year-old Lahore High Court verdict for quashing Rs1.2 billion Hudabiya Paper Mills case against the Sharifs, Chaudhry said he will stand by his earlier view of not filling an appeal against LHC order. Upon this the bench asked him to be ready to face the consequences as the court cannot force him to file an appeal at this stage.
Justice Khosa wondered that NAB did not give weightage to the opinion of an LHC judge who asked for reinvestigation in the Hudabiya Paper mills case. He said everyone was shifting their responsibility including the ruling family and the state investigation agencies.
Addressing the NAB chairperson, Justice Khosa said: “You could have looked into the Panamangate matter but you didn’t.” The judge went on to observe that chairperson of the anti-corruption watchdog could not be removed by those who appointed him. “I wish people who have such privilege could realise that they have a major responsibility.”
Justice Khosa said the allegation was not new in the Panamagate case as it was linked with NAB’s 17-year-old Hudabiya Paper Mills reference against the Sharifs. “At least you could have considered the material, which was already available with the NAB,” he said. Justice Azmat Saeed Shaikh also observed NAB can initiate inquiry against any official or office-bearer whose assets are beyond means.
Earlier, the SC bench observed that the FBR took one year for the verification of suspects named in the Panama Papers scandal.
When FBR chairperson Dr Muhammad Irshad stated before the court that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son, Hussain Nawaz, was not a resident of Pakistan, Justice Azmat asked if he checked travel history of the PM’s son to check how many days he spent in the country.
Justice Khosa said criminal cases had been registered against the ruling family since 1994 as money was allegedly laundered, asking whether FBR took any action.
Justice Gulzar observed that functionaries of the state were not doing their jobs. Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan asked if the FBR high-ups were not taking actions against the rulers because they were being appointed by those [Sharif family] who were at dock. The judge observed that the FBR chairperson must prove his intention through his conduct.
“Thank you very much for not assisting the court,” Justice Khosa told FBR’s Irshad.
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