Monday Dec 31, 2018
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court ordered the federal government to review its decision to place 172 individuals including prominent politicians on the Exit Control List, as it resumed hearing the long-running mega money laundering and fake bank accounts case on Monday.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, who is leading a two-judge bench hearing the suo motu case, expressed anger at the inclusion of Sindh chief minister Murad Ali Shah and others on the no-fly list and questioned how the federal government could justify adding 172 individuals to the ECL.
A Joint Investigation Team probing the money laundering case had held the Zardari and Omni groups responsible in its report submitted to the apex court last Monday. The report had also suggested that all the suspects in the case be placed on the ECL.
In view of the JIT findings, the federal government on Friday released a list of 172 suspects whose names were placed on the no-fly list. The list included Bilawal, Zardari, Sindh chief minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, presidents of a number of local banks, and other former ministers and bureaucrats.
Irked at the government's move, the chief justice wondered how all these individuals could be barred from flying.
"How can the chief executive of the country's second-biggest province be put on the ECL?" Justice Nisar asked the attorney-general in attendance.
"We had summoned replies from [these individuals], but the government placed them on the ECL," the top judge remarked.
"[What if] the next name on the ECL is that of NAB chairman? Tomorrow your name [could] be added too!" Justice Nisar stated in his remarks to the attorney general.
"Who did this?" the judge asked, to which the attorney general replied that he would look into the matter.
"We will look into it ourselves," Justice Nisar remarked.
"We cannot allow the government to be removed simply on the basis of a report," the judge continued, adding that the court had not yet endorsed the JIT report.
"It won't [take us] even a minute to scrap the governor's rule if anyone imposes it," he warned.
Addressing Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi, who was summoned by the apex court in relation to the placement of suspects' names on the ECL, Justice Nisar warned that no one would be allowed to overstep the legal ambit.
"Tell your seniors, this country will only be run according to the Constitution," the judge observed, and instructed the attorney general to take the ECL matter to the cabinet for review.
Justice Nisar further warned the government and other parties to refrain from analysing the case, as it was still being heard by the court.
He added that some people were giving the impression that the proceedings in the case were being done on the command of "someone", but it is not true, the court is issuing the orders on its own conscience.
Shehryar Afridi apologised for statements passed by ministers relating to the case, and assured the court that it would not happen again.
The Supreme Court during today's hearing approved a request by the legal team of Asif Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur to be allowed till end of this week to submit their reply in the case.
During the December 24 hearing, the Supreme Court had summoned replies from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, party president Asif Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and other high-profile individuals named in the JIT report.
Zardari's counsel Latif Khosa told the bench earlier today that Farooq H. Naik, another member of Zardari's legal team, had excused himself from appearing in the court.
Farooq H. Naik was Zardari's counsel in the case, but the JIT made him a suspect too, Khosa told the court.
The Supreme Court, however, dismissed the lawyer's request to excuse him from appearance.
"No one can stop [Farooq H. Naik] from appearing in the court," the chief justice remarked.
The court declared void the JIT's recommendations regarding Naik and sought a summary regarding placement of the lawyer, Sindh chief minister and others on the ECL.
The Supreme Court also instructed the Federal Investigation Agency to probe a fake audio call attributed to Latif Khosa.
The court said it will make a final decision after reviewing the JIT report.
The hearing was then adjourned till next Monday, January 7.
The Federal Investigation Agency is investigating 32 people in relation to money laundering from fictitious accounts, including Zardari and Talpur. Zardari’s close aide Hussain Lawai was arrested in July in connection with the probe.
The former president’s other close aide and Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed a close aide and Omni Group chairman and his son, Abdul Ghani, were arrested by FIA in August.
Over 20 ‘benami’ accounts at some private banks were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 from where transactions worth billions of rupees were made, according to sources.
The amount, according to FIA sources, is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes.