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Govt rejects JIT report, vows to chellenge it before SC

Lahore : The government on Monday rejected the joint investigation team’s (JIT) report in the Panama Papers case and vowed to contest it before the Supreme Court to fulfill the requirements of justice, and expose its contradictions and biased findings. “We reject the JIT report. It reflects the viewpoint of a specific political party and the allegations levelled by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf chief Imran Khan. It is `Imran Nama’ and simply a trash,” Minister for Planning and Development Chaudhry Ahsan Iqbal said here at a news conference.

Flanked by federal ministers Khawaja Muhammad Asif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, he termed the JIT report ‘Dharna-3’ (third  sit-in) and said the information on which the report was based, had no legal substance. “It will meet the same fate as Dharna-1 and Dharna-2.”

He said the report had substantiated their apprehensions as it only pertained to the personal business of the prime minister’s family. “There has been no charge of corruption, or illegal use of means against Nawaz Sharif as prime minister. It lacks solid arguments and certified material.”

He said a team of their lawyers would examine the report and submit a detailed response in the Supreme Court. Instead of seeking answers to the 13 questions as per the mandate given by the Supreme Court, the JIT itself acted as a trial court, he added.

Ahsan Iqbal said the report had not mentioned any financial embezzlement in any public sector mega project and that story had been framed to benefit a particular political party. “The JIT is a not a trial court and its report is a cock and bull story.”

Ahsan Iqbal said since 2013, the government had improved law and order situation, achieved economic stability, started implementation of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, and brought Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir into mainstream, while the JIT report was an effort to hamper national progress.

He expressed firm resolve to contest all the political opponents as the government was spending public money judiciously. The Transparency International had improved Pakistan’s ranking by nine points, he added.

Adding to Ahsan Iqbal, Advisor to the Prime Minister Barrister Zafarullah Khan said when the JIT was constituted it was believed that justice would be done, but the report seemed to incorporate the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s point of view. “None of its members know anything about the law. They are non-professionals and have zero experience about Qanoon-e-Shahadat.”

He said, “The JIT did not make any recommendation to send references to the National Accountability Bureau against the prime minister and his family members.” Discussing the constitution of JIT, he said one of its members, Bilal Rasool, was a relative of Mian Azhar and a biased person.

“The JIT has been threatening those appearing before it. The JIT wasted a lot of time on irrelevant matters. It allocated 120 pages to discuss media reports. All it had done was just to create anarchy.” He said another JIT member Amir Aziz, who had been a key person to pursue references against the PML-N leaders during the Pervez Musharraf regime. “Our two men – Tariq Shafi and Javed Kiani – were threatened during the proceedings to get the desired statements.”

He said anybody assigned to do justice must not be biased as he also mentioned that the name of the person who leaked the picture was not disclosed before the apex court.

Barrister Zafarullah said the JIT had been taping phones, which was against the country’s law. It was a criminal offence and punishable under the law.  “The Supreme Court had also declared this act as illegal, immoral and unconstitutional and recommended legislation on the issue.” He said the JIT had not recorded evidence of the most important witness as he mentioned that the statement of Pervez Musharraf, who was facing treason charges, was recorded from his residence.

 “The JIT report is a source report. It is a wrong report and just a fairy-tale. We shall file objections on it before the Supreme Court,” he said and expressed confidence that the apex court would throw the report into a dustbin.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Defence Khawaja  Muhammad Asif vowed to exercise all legal options before the Supreme Court. “There should be no doubt that we will decimate the allegations levelled in the JIT report while exercising all the options during the legal proceedings in the apex court,” he added. “It is start of the story and we will contest the case at every stage of the legal process,” he remarked.

Khawaja Asif said the joint investigation team did not collect any conclusive evidence and mostly relied on source reports from the United Kingdom and Dubai, which were not admissible as evidence in any court of law. He said the JIT collected no signed document, but only drafts and worthless papers. It failed to produce any counter-evidence to prove its case, he added.

The JIT report, he said, laid emphasis on the statement made by Rehman Malik, which showed lack of quality of its probe. He said he had expected better performance from the JIT as it consisted of bureaucrats and former officials of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). However, investigation of financial matters was a technical job and the JIT members were not upto the task, he added.

Khawaja Asif said two of the companies mentioned in the JIT report were not even owned by Hassan Nawaz. He said Hussain Nawaz remitted the money to the account of Nawaz Sharif from the profit shown in the balance sheet audited by a well known international firm so there was no chance of any illegality.

He said as compared to Pakistan, the money laundering and tax evasion laws were very strict in the United Kingdom where the prime minister’s sons were doing business. He said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had faith in the Supreme Court as it was the same court for which their party had launched a movement and restored judiciary.

The minister hoped that the Supreme Court would deal with them according to the law and constitution.He said their lawyers were thoroughly looking into the JIT report for submitting a response before the Supreme Court.

Khawaja Asif reminded that in 2012 he had alleged that Imran Khan invested Zakat money in offshore companies in Muscat and Dubai.

Later, Imran Khan incurred loss on that investment and showed it as a loss in the accounts of Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital, he added.

He said the PML-N would also take up the case at the forum of parliament, which was a supreme institution and they would be victorious. He said their party braved political attacks in the past as well. It confronted the military coup of October 12, 1999 and before that its government was removed by Ghulam Ishaq Khan. “Whenever our mandate was not respected, we came back with greater majority and increased number of voters,” he added.

He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was staying in the office because of the public mandate and it was reflective of the aspirations of the people. The prime minister enjoyed the trust of both the parliament and the voters, he added.   

Minister for Petroleum and National Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said day before yesterday, they had expressed reservations about the conduct and attitude of JIT members. The JIT report, he said, reminded of the references filed during the period of General (R) Pervez Musharraf against the Sharif family, which were not based on facts and reality.

He said it was repeatedly mentioned in the JIT report that the members of Sharif family had assets beyond their known sources of income. Same allegations were levelled in the references filed by General (R) Musharraf, he noted.

Shahid Khaqan said Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz were overseas Pakistanis and lived abroad, and thus the country’s laws could not be applied on them. He said sending money through banking channels was not illegal under any law of the country. Many of the points raised in the JIT report, he said, were unbelievable and ridiculous.

He said such a JIT report was not a surprise as they had already expressed their reservations on its composition and political affiliations of its members.

The minister said it was written in the report that the charity given by Ishaq Dar was also tax evasion, which was absurd. He said amazingly it was mentioned in the report that Ishaq Dar’s assets had increased during the period while he was living abroad, which, however, was not right. “How is it illegal to do business and make money abroad?”

He said for the PML-N facts of the case were very clear and their lawyers were minutely looking into the report.“We are not afraid and we will take our case to the people of Pakistan.” He said the PML-N always respected the Supreme Court. We fought for democracy and for restoration of judiciary.”

Answering a question, Ahsan Iqbal said the opponents could not play with the people’s sentiments through such tactics. The people are with the PML-N as they knew about their intention to create political instability. He said Nawaz Sharif had introduced a policy in 1991 to make Pakistan economically strong but his government was toppled just after two years. It was for the third time that conspiracies were surfacing while the country was taking off under his leadership, he added.

Answering another question, he said the prime minister’s name was not mentioned in the Panama Papers while Imran’s offshore companies, which he owned till 2014, were there. “But, the action in case of the prime minister was brisk while sluggish in case of Imran Khan. Imran is shying away through lame excuses while the prime minister presented himself and his family for accountability.”

The PTI, he alleged, used social media and hurled public threats, which was wrong.

Replying to a query, Barrister Zafarullah Khan said the report had just been presented to the Supreme Court and not adopted as the court had yet to go through it. He said the prime minister was told that his children were not Pakistani nationals and the country’s law could not be applied to them. He, however, decided to call them here for appearing before the JIT just for the sake of justice.

When asked about the future of PML-N, he said  whenever the party came across such a situation it emerged as strong and powerful. “We are a mainstream party and have roots among the people.”

Answering a question, Ahsan Iqbal said Imran Khan talked of getting everybody search but he himself was avoiding his own search. “He does not abide by any law. He had stated that if the JIT report would not be favourable for his party, he would hold protests.” He said, “We shall contest our case in the court within the ambits of the law and the constitution. Our opponents desire a decision of their choice by exerting pressure, but it will not work.”

He said the people had rejected their opponents in all the by-elections as well as elections in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. “They should have rather focused on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) to make the province a role model instead of hatching conspiracies against the federal government and the elected prime minister.”

Ahsan Iqbal said corruption was not an issue for the PTI as as it had dissolved the Accountability Commission in the KP for disclosing its corrupt members. The PTI leadership also removed Justice (R) Wajeeh ud Din when he exposed corrupt elements in the party, he added. “Imran is not Mr Clean but Mr Disillusioned. He only desires to become the prime minister through back door and by hatching conspiracies,” he said.

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