Saturday, June 17, 2017

Phones of witnesses are being tapped: PM House

Attorney general tells SC JIT spending most of its energy on media monitoring; no solid evidence available to support allegations; urges SC to order transparency in investigations

ISLAMABAD: The Prime Minister House has said that telephones of witnesses have been tapped, while the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the Panama Leaks case against the Sharif family is utilising most of its energy on media monitoring as there are is no solid proof to support the allegations.

The PM House also denied allegations of tutoring witnesses and persons who are being summoned by the JIT. It also denied leakage of summons issued by the JIT for the prime minister’s appearance before it, saying the summons may have been leaked by the JIT or its staff. The PM House maintained that in any way, such summons are a matter of public knowledge and do not in any manner hamper the investigations as alleged.

The JIT, in its application filed with the Supreme Court, had levelled serious allegations against the Prime Minister's House, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Ministry of Law and Justice, National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Intelligence Bureau (IB).

A three-member special bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Ijaz Afzal Khan and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsen, had sought reply from the Attorney General for Pakistan over the allegations levelled by the JIT.

In pursuance of the court’s order, Attorney General Ashter Ausaf on Friday submitted a four-page reply, containing replies by SECP, NAB, FBR, Law Ministry, Intelligence Bureau and the Prime Minister’s Secretariat.

The attorney general submitted that the reliance and reference to technical analysis is indeed an admission by the JIT of phone tapping and monitoring of witnesses, a violation of law and the Constitution. He prayed the Supreme Court to order transparency in investigation of the case.

It is pertinent to mention here that the JIT report, while referring to “the analysis of technical means”, alleged that witnesses are being tutored by or at the behest of the respondents and confidential letters are being leaked by misusing the location of the PM’s House.

The JIT had submitted thatthe analysis of technical means indicate that Haroon Pasha, CEO of the Ittefaq Group, a close associate of the Respondent No1 (PM Nawaz Sharif), directed Tariq Shafi, a witness in the matter, to come to the Prime Minister House before he would appear before the JIT. “Haroon Pasha specifically directed Tariq Shafi that he needed to state before the JIT what he would be told at the Prime Minister’s House. This fact was corroborated by Tariq Shafi before the JIT in subsequent sessions,” said the JIT report, without explaining who informed the JIT about what had transpired between Pasha and Shafi in private.

The report had added that tutoring witnesses is in itself a criminal offence, the PM’s House and its sanctity is being undermined so as to coercively influence witnesses in the name of the PM House. Similarly, the JIT report had also noted that the JIT’s summons, marked as confidential for the prime minister was also leaked by the PM House, which it had contended that the “Leak/public disclosure of 'confidential' letter/information is a crime in itself”.

Meanwhile, the attorney general in his reply contended that decisions on the application filed by the JIT cannot be given without the named parties being put to notice and recording of evidence. He contended that this exercise may consume considerable time and the focus of the matter in issues is likely to be diverted.

Likewise, the SECP while denying the allegations of JIT reiterated with supporting documents that investigation against Chaudhry Sugar Mills was in fact closed in 2013. It said the allegations of tampering of the record is thus prima facie incorrect. The SECP contended that correspondence with UKCA for mutual legal assistance clearly showed that the said investigation was closed in 2013 well before the appointment of incumbent chairman.

“Nomination of a person or another by the institution was a matter prior to formation of the JIT and cannot be dubbed as obstacle in the working of JIT,” the SECP maintained, adding that in any event, reference to WhatsApp calls and nomination of Ali Aziz is not called for. “All the necessary correspondence has been appended with its the reply, hence, be that as it may the JIT can draw its own conclusion,” the SECP submitted.

Similarly, NAB also denied the show cause notice issued to one of the members of the JIT was issued with malafide intention. It said the show cause notice was issued to Mr Mangi pursuant an order of this court like 77 other persons prior to formation of the JIT. It said they have also pointed out that the matter stands suspended.

Similarly, the FBR also denied the allegations of JIT against it saying that for the first time on May 8, 2017, the JIT requested record, then on May 25, 2017, May 29, 2017 and June 8, 2017. This related to old record spanned over 40 years and of several individuals. It submitted that the record was provide within the minimum time period thus according to FBR, the allegations are not well founded.

Likewise, the Ministry of Law and Justice specifically denied all the allegations against it. It contended that the letter for mutual legal assistance under Section 21 was got issued in record three-day time, adding that the documents show that the JIT members were aware of the Rules of Business that circulation of necessary correspondence was to be made by the Foreign Office and Ministry of Interior under Rule 56 of the Rules of Business 1973.

The AG reply also included denial of Intelligence Bureau wherein it has denied the allegation of hacking of Facebook account of Bilal Rasool or his family or any other member of JIT.

“Low downs on member of the JIT were done under the standard operating procedures thus, the allegations levelled against it were vehemently denied,” the IB maintained.

Meanwhile, referring to the hate speech made by former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Senator Nehal Hashmi against judiciary, the attorney general submitted that the prime minister took immediate steps which shows that no malafide intention is involved in the matter. He contended that Nehal Hashmi has been expelled from the party and an FIR has also been lodged against him.

Agencies add: Special Assistant and spokesman to the prime minister Dr Musadik Malik while terming the attitude of the JIT biased, urged the Supreme Court to remove uncertainty regarding its attitude.

He said efforts are being made to find an approver like Masood Mahmood. He said the JIT, instead of providing justice, has started intimidation. He said unknown action is being taken against unknown persons of unknown institutions.

Addressing a press conference along with the PML-N lawmaker Danyal Aziz, he said in such a scenario, the decision of JIT would be doubtful. He alleged that witnesses were being forced to take back their affidavits and threatened with long imprisonments.

The spokesman said since coming into power, conspiracies were being hatched against the PML-N government. He said some internal and external forces wanted to destabilise the country and were continuously conspiring against an elected government.

Dr Musadik said an elected prime minister has presented himself for accountability for the first time in the country's history and appeared before the JIT. He said all speculations were proved wrong Thursday when the PM appeared before the JIT. He said the prime minister appeared in the JIT without any security apparatus to boost honour and dignity of judiciary and state institutions. “It would also help strengthen democracy in the country,” he added.

The spokesman said the PM appeared before the JIT despite the fact that his name was not present in the Panama Papers. Musadik said the prime minister presented all documents and details to the court and JIT about his family business. He said impression was being given that the case might be of corruption or money laundering. He also questioned the veracity of JIT report which mentioned that picture of Hussain Nawaz was leaked by an unknown person of unknown institution.

To a question, Dr Musadik said they have great respect for judiciary and they would continue to appear before it and would also present their reservations about the JIT. He said the Prime Minister's statement after appearing before JIT was comprehensive and that he had presented all documents before the Parliament and the court.

Danyal Aziz said the PTI chief was an absconder in many cases and he should face the courts. He said if the prime minister and his sons could appear before the JIT then why Imran Khan was reluctant to appear before the courts.

This story was originally published in The News