Panama case: burden of proof lies with PM’s counsel, judges say
The prime minister’s counsel, as he resumed his arguments before the Supreme Court during hearing of the Panamagate case on Thursday, was quizzed about a money trail for the London flats and asked to prove there were no inconsistencies in the PM’s speech in the National Assembly last year.
The PM’s counsel, Makhdoom Ali Khan, denied that his client had anything to do with the London flats before the five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.
Khan argued that the family business was transferred to Nawaz Sharif’s son, Hussain Nawaz after the death of Mian Sharif, the PM’s father. “Nawaz Sharif had nothing to do with it,” he said.
“If there was no connection, then how does the money trail lead to the London flats?” Justice Khosa inquired. “There are two different money trails before us. How did the money go from Jeddah and then to London? And how did the money go from Dubai to London and then Qatar?”
The PM’s counsel denied Nawaz Sharif had been a director of the family’s Dubai factory.
“How can we believe that he was never the director?” Justice Khosa asked. “No documents have been submitted before us to prove he was never the director.”
Khan told the bench that the Dubai factory was established after taking a loan, upon which he admonished by a judge for presenting documents in court that did not make this apparent.
The counsel in turn asked the court to form a commission “to go to Dubai and review allegations made against the prime minister.”
Justice Ijazul Hassan observed that the prime minister had recognised the Dubai mills and said all records are available. “Now the burden of proof is on you,” he told the PM’s counsel.
Khan was of the opinion that presenting documents and proof is the petitioner’s job.
Justice Khosa reiterated that “the prime minister’s lawyer will have to satisfy the court” regarding the ownership of the Dubai factory.
Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed told Makhdoom Khan that the Panamagate case is based on contradictions in statements made by the prime minister on the floor of the National Assembly after the Panama leaks last year.
The judge, referring to the plaintiff’s allegations that Nawaz Sharif provided incorrect statements, told the counsel, “If you disagree, then you will have to prove it.”
“If there is a small mistake in the speech, it can be overlooked. But if mistakes were made on purpose, there will be serious consequences,” Justice Ejaz Afzal warned.
“We do not believe that the speech was wrong but if something was hidden on purpose, we will consider that to be a half truth,” Justice Khosa said.
The counsel told the judge that the prime minister, in his speech, was providing an overview of his family’s business.
“He was not taking an oath or answering a specific question,” Khan said. “The prime minister’s speech was not a statement in a court.”
Makhdoom Khan said that there are two ways to remove the prime minister: the first is through the submission of a no-confidence motion. The second requires that Members of the National Assembly prove that the PM is dishonest.
“The Supreme Court, however, cannot disqualify him based on the statements and claims of others,” Khan said.
“Did the prime minister tell the truth or did Hussain Nawaz tell the truth,” Justice Ejaz inquired. “If one of them has told the truth, then the other has lied.”
“The record the the prime minister referred to in his address has still not come forth,” Justice Gulzar observed.
Justice Khosa remarked, “The prime minister had said his life is an open book. There seem to be some pages missing from that book.”
Makhdoom Khan finished the days arguments by telling the court that the matter of the money trail has nothing to do with the Nawaz Sharif.
“The business belongs to the [premier’s] children. The record will be presented by their lawyer.”
“The lawyer of Hassan and Hussain Nawaz will present details about the business and the money trail record,” Makhdoom Khan said.
The hearing was adjourned till Friday.