Monday, May 29, 2017

No JIT member will be replaced, same team to continue, observes Supreme Court

ISLAMABAD: The special bench overseeing the implementation of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probe in the Panama case has reposed its confidence in the body in light of objections raised towards two team members by the prime minister’s son.

On Monday, the three-member bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, heard Hussain Nawaz’s petition against the alleged bias of Amer Aziz and Bilal Rasool, who represent the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), respectively, in the six-member JIT.

Justice Ejaz observed that no [JIT member] will be replaced without solid evidence, adding that if they start acting on such objections then they will have to call angels from the skies [to become JIT members].

Responding to the petitioner's objections, the bench observed that you are targeting a member who is doing his work. 

Referring to points raised in the petition, Justice Ijazul Ahsan said one person cannot influence the entire team. Similarly, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh observed that if the prime minister thinks a JIT of his own choosing will probe the case then he is surely mistaken.

The special bench then directed the JIT to continue working according to the law, and said it would not be replacing any member of the high-profile probe team.

When Hussain’s counsel Khwaja Harris said the premier’s relative, Tariq Shafi, was debriefed for 13 hours and also misbehaved with by the JIT members, the bench ordered that individuals appearing in front of the JIT should be respected.

Earlier, the bench came down hard on officials snubbing summons by the JIT.

After being informed that National Bank President Saeed Ahmad has not appeared before the JIT despite being summoned, the judges ordered him to appear before the probe team tomorrow. 

The bench warned all those who refuse to appear before the JIT that the court will issue bailable and non-bailable arrest warrants to ensure the presence of all who are called by the investigators.

The bench also observed that it has ordered the JIT to complete its probe in 60 days, adding that they’re working day and night without any break.

Harris stated that they are fully cooperating with the JIT, stressing that his client left as soon as he was summoned by the JIT, even though he had just arrived in the country.

The JIT’s head, Federal Investigation Agency’s Wajid Zia, also informed the court that Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani was summoned to record his statement with the JIT but he has yet to respond to their letter. 

Hussain claimed in his petition that the JIT member from the SECP, Bilal Rasool, is the nephew of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Mian Azhar. Azhar, a former governor of Punjab, was originally affiliated with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz but later joined the PML-Q and then PTI.

Hussain has claimed that despite being a public servant, Bilal also frequently speaks against the ruling federal government, while his wife is also a supporter of the PTI and PML-Q.

Regarding the JIT member from the SBP, Amir Aziz, Hussain says he was part of the investigation team in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case during the regime of former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf. Aziz also threatened the premier’s cousin, Tariq Shafi, while investigating him in the Panama case, Hussain has alleged. Aziz also allegedly directed Shafi to take back his sworn statement, according to Hussain’s petition.

On Sunday, Hussain appeared before the JIT for almost two hours to record his statement after he was summoned by the high-profile probe body. He is expected to submit the relevant records with the JIT on Tuesday.