Panama Papers: contents inadmissible, PM tells LHC

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has told the Lahore High Court (LHC) that the contents of the Panama Papers have no credibility in the eyes of law and are inadmissible as evidence before a court and added that the reality of allegations levelled against him and his family through the Panama leaks were nothing but merely allegations. 

The prime minister stated this in a written reply that he filed on Wednesday before the court of Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah.

The court is seized with a petition challenging National Assembly Speaker’s act of dismissing a reference for disqualification against prime minister in the wake of Panama leaks.

In his reply, the prime minister not only challenged the territorial but also the constitutional jurisdiction of the LHC to take up the petition of the Justice and Democratic Party headed by former CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry as neither did he contest elections nor was he his rival in the constituency from where he was elected as parliamentarian.

The PM said the National Assembly Speaker is competent enough to decide references filed against the parliamentarians and his powers of deciding such references cannot be challenged before the court. The PM through his reply reiterated his stance that Hassan Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Maryam were not dependants on him.

It said the NA speaker duly passed the impugned order in exercise of powers conferred upon him under Article 63(2) of the Constitution and does not merit interference by the court as already settled by Supreme Court in various judgements.

Challenging the petition on merits, the PM stated in his response that the petitioner miserably failed to substantiate the incorrect, false and misconceived revelations made in the Panama papers through credible, cogent and admissible evidence.

He stated the reference filed before the speaker was devoid of any merit and substance and has been rightly dismissed by the Speaker.

PM also denied the allegations of obtaining loans and any of the London-based properties referred to him in the reference dismissed by the speaker. He maintains that he has not defaulted in any of his obligation towards any financial institution as alleged in the reference.

The premier further stated that no adverse order has been passed against him in any of the judgements of the apex court cited by the petitioner in the reference.

He urged the court to dismiss the petition for being not maintainable. In separate replies, the NA Speaker and federal law ministry also defend the impugned decision about dismissal of the petitioner’s reference.

The court was informed that PM, National Assembly and Ministry for Law and Parliamentary Affairs had submitted their replies except Election Commission of Pakistan which had yet to submit it reply. At this, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah issued notice to ECP and sought a reply by the next hearing, December 01.

The Speaker had dismissed as not maintainable all references moved against the prime minister on the basis of the Panama Leaks revelations wherein the prime minister’s children were named as running offshore companies with the money allegedly not declared to the tax authorities and their assets abroad.

The movers alleged the offshore companies and properties abroad formed assets of the Sharifs, which the PM should have declared to the Election Commission and the tax authorities.

The petitioner was principally aggrieved of the decision taken by the Speaker on reference moved by the former CJP against PM Nawaz. The petitioner was against the speaker also on the point that he allegedly played a partisan role and put objection to the reference and sent it back.

One of the references was filed by Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry whose restoration to the office had come about through the mass mobilisation on March 13, 2009 led by Nawaz Sharif as head of the PML-N.

The petition advocated by Hamid Khan, Sheikh Ahsan Din and others has questioned Speaker’s ruling in favour of Sharif terming the same as contrary to the constitution, law and the decisions of the Superior judiciary. It alleged the Speaker did not address at least 15 questions set in the reference and those on which he ruled, deviated from the actual context of the matter.

The petitioner said the Speaker while dealing with the reference, had overstepped his authority by exercising judicial powers and decided the issue which fell in the jurisdiction of the Election Commission while, he, under the law, was obliged to put the same before the EC only after prima facie making his mind on it.

Citing authorities of the Supreme Court, the petitioner argued, a person is bound to prove his innocence when his relation by any means, is associated with the resources amassed illegally.

On this plain, it says, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif needed to disclose the source of his money when the foreign assets of his family had become an admitted fact.

Any illegality about the source of income, it contended, is impeachable under the electoral law of the land but the speaker overlooked this aspect.

In a bid to make out case that under Article 63 (2) of the Constitution Nawaz stands disqualified, the petitioner contended, the respondent established properties outside the country but he did not declare them before the competent authorities.

-Business Recorder