Says statements recorded in Panama Joint Investigation Tribunal were not credible
ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif responded to more court queries on Monday and sought time for the remaining four questions, while testifying under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in the accountability court in Islamabad.
Out of 152 court queries, Sharif has so far responded to 147 questions. The court has granted the accused one more day to respond to the last four questions in the Al-Azizia reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Recording his replies on Monday Sharif often got emotional. At one point, Sharif ignored his written answer and directly addressed the judge, saying: “I am at loss to understand why this case is framed. Even the prosecution would not know the justification of the case,” he said.
“Everyone has the right to send his children abroad for studies and the children also do businesses. What is unusual if my children sent me some money. I had been the prime minister. It was difficult if they did business here. If they do business abroad it becomes objectionable,” he added.
Sharif said that his father had been running the family business since 1937 – long before he [Nawaz Sharif] was born. He added that he was very active in politics and did not have the time for business, adding that his children were right to choose to do business abroad.
NAB prosecutor objected that the case was not about doing business abroad but about how do they [Sharifs] do the business. Sharif said there was no proof of embezzlement of public funds, or corruption or kickbacks. “I am unable to understand what are the charges against me.”
Responding to a question, the former prime minister said had the previous government not compelled the family, they would have been doing their business in Pakistan. “We were forced to leave in 1971, then again in 1999, even though I wasn’t in politics in 1971,” the former premier added.
Referring to the exile to Saudi Arabia by former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, Sharif said that he did not take the decision happily. He added that his younger son Hasan Nawaz completed his graduation while being in exile. “We didn’t leave the country on our own will. If my children didn’t go out they would have spent their entire life begging,” he said.
“The children started business with the help of their grandfather. Hasan Nawaz got British citizenship during his exile,” he said. He responded in the affirmative when Judge Arshad Malik asked if Hasan held dual nationality. Sharif added: “When you stay abroad for more than six months you get tax exemption.”
He pleaded that the “so-called proofs” collected by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in the Panama Papers case and its report submitted to the Supreme Court last year be rejected. He alleged that the JIT was biased against him.
“The JIT is nothing more than investigating agency. It is a matter of common understanding that a statement recorded before the investigating agency cannot be presented as proof in the court,” Sharif contended. “The investigation is based on bias and without proofs. Only income tax return, wealth statement and wealth tax return were submitted to the JIT.”
Sharif sought time for replying to the remaining questions. He said that he wanted to consult, his lawyer Khawja Haris before answering the last four questions. The court accepted his request and gave him one more day to consult his attorney.
The defence lawyer wanted the remaining questions to be answered on Thursday, however, Judge Malik Arshad said that the questionnaire had been provided in advance. In the next hearing, Sharif would answer the question: “Why the case has been made against him”.
The Section 342 pertains to the court’s power to question the accused. The court has given Sharif a set of 151 questions, out of which he has given replies to 147 during the four previous hearings. The court has also summoned investigating officers of the Flagship reference.