ISLAMABAD - Observing that it is not going to demean PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, the apex court on Monday directed the JIT to delete part of its report on fake bank accounts wherein both are named.

Hearing the case pertaining to billions of rupees alleged money laundering through fake accounts, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar also questioned on whose ‘dictation’ Bilawal and CM Sindh had been implicated in the scam.

Heading the 3-judge bench, he observed that Bilawal is innocent. The court further observed that the name of Pakistan People’s Party chief was added to the report for political point scoring.

The court ordered for removal of Bilawal and Murad’s names from Exit Control List (ECL).

It also referred the matter of alleged money laundering to National Accountability Bureau (NAB), directing it to complete its investigation in two months. The accountability watchdog may use the contents of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report as information, the CJP directed.

However, regarding Bilawal and Sindh CM, the top court ruled that NAB might probe afresh if it deems necessary.

During the hearing, the chief justice observed that Bilawal had never been associated with the matter and that his father Asif Ali Zardari or paternal aunt Faryal Talpur would have been associated but he [Bilawal] was implicated only on the ground that he was director of a company.

Addressing a brigadier, who was member of JIT, Justice Saqib Nisar asked him on whose direction the names were put in the report. But all the JIT members, including its head Ihsan Sadiq, were answerless.

However, JIT’s counsel Faisal Siddiqui told the bench that Bilawal owned 25 percent shares of property in London and misappropriation had been observed.

“Does being shareholder [of a property] means that he has done misappropriation?” asked the chief justice.

The CJP also expressed displeasure on placement of Sindh CM’s name on the no-fly list and remarked that this court is time and again asking for justification of such placement of names on the ECL.

He observed that the CM was sitting in a high office and dignity of such office had to be preserved. He, moreover, questioned whether placing the name of chief executive of the country’s second largest province on ECL was in the interest of country and whether it would be good for the efforts of creating interprovincial harmony.

During the proceedings, Farooq H Naek, counsel representing PPP Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur, contended before the bench that there was neither direct allegation on his clients in the report nor any wrongdoing was directly attributed to them.

He further contended that contents of the report regarding his clients were presumptive, adding that his clients’ replies had not been mentioned in the JIT report.

He stated that this report is based on malafide intentions. He, however, took back his statement regarding malafide intentions when the bench objected to it.

Sardar Latif Khosa also appeared before the bench and contended that the JIT report was being used as political tool against the party and even the federal government had started considering imposing governor’s rule in Sindh.

Upon this, the chief justice observed that democracy is a blessing. He also ensured that this court would not affect the fundamental rights and that it was the top court’s motive since two years.

Khosa also expressed hope that the court would never allow political destabilisation in the name of JIT report. He also stated that the country’s overall situation was already worse and bureaucracy was not ready to push the pen due to fear of NAB, adding that the new Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led federal government had made the system a hostage.

He further contended that Bilawal was six years old at the time of the alleged transactions mentioned in the JIT report.

On the contentions of Advocate General Sindh Salman Talibud Din, chief justice observed that order was being given to at least summon Sindh CM for his reply. He also cautioned the accountability watchdog not to harass and humiliate anyone, adding that dignity of man should be preserved.

AG Sindh informed the bench that CM Shah was not involved in the matter and there were lacunas in the report, adding that this report cannot be made a starting point of investigation if the matter is sent to NAB. He requested the bench to issue order for fresh investigation by the NAB.

Munir Bhatti, counsel representing Omni Group, also denied existence of a nexus between companies and contended that the Group bought sugar mills in accordance with the law. He added that his client had not done anything illegal by buying sugar mills on subsidies.

The chief justice observed that if the allegations in JIT report are proven then it will constitute criminal offence which falls within the purview of NAB laws. He made observations to the extent of Omni Group and further said that the allegations are not baseless.

He further observed that everyone should be mindful that this court will not leave the matter uncooked and the full exercise would be carried out to take the matter to its logical conclusion.

Meanwhile, Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) in its 6-page concise statement stated that the JIT had not approached it for comment or given it opportunity to explain correct legal position on the matter of acquisition of shares of Arif Habib Bank and Atlas Bank by Suroor Investment Ltd.

“Therefore, it is of utmost importance to bring on the record the true legal position and important facts for assistance of the court while considering the report of the JIT to the extent of the purported role of the SECP in the scheme of arrangement of 3 banking companies,” it added.

It further stated that the SECP followed up on the matter with all 3 banks involved in the M&A process for almost a year and a half, adding that the proceedings under Takeover Ordinance were only dropped after receipt of letters from State Bank of Pakistan through which it was conclusively established that the transaction was a part of rehabilitation/scheme of arrangement for revival of sick banks, which will ultimately stand merged through an order of the SBP.

“Consequently, SBP approved the merger of the banks through which shareholders of Atlas Bank, My Bank and Arif Habib Bank were given shares of Summit Bank as per the swap ratio determined and approved by the SBP.”