ISLAMABAD -  The Supreme Court on Monday observed that real issue before the court is honesty and not the London flats, adding the statements of the PM and his children seem to be contradictory.

Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa said the prime minister has to be honest with the nation. He observed that allegedly public money had been taken away from this country.

A large bench of five judges, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa heard the petitions of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Jamaat-e-Islami, PAML and advocate Tariq Asad on Panama leaks against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children.

Naeem Bukhari contended that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is disqualified under Article 62 and 63 of Constitution as he had lied to the nation.

Justice Azmat Saeed remarked that these articles do not apply to the PM (alone) but (also) to the members of the parliament, including the PTI MNAs. He said if a statement is given against a public office-holder to get him disqualified but later it turns out to be false then it would be wrong.

Justice Khosa said they were giving time to the counsels of the petitioners as they wanted to reach the truth. He said they don’t like to interpret law (Article 62 & 63) in a way that it affects every parliamentarian, adding, “We want its strict interpretation.”

This case of its own kind and for the first time such a matter had come to the top court. The gravity of the declaration that so and so is not honest should be well defined. “We have to lay down the parameters.”

Khosa observed that if the situation continues the way it is going then no one, except JI Ameer Siraj ul Haq, would survive from the scope of Article 62 & 63.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan said they wanted to get to the truth and uphold the truth therefore we would like to first determine the fact and then apply the law.

The PTI counsel wanted to conclude his argument, but the court asked him why he was in a hurry. He deflected the legal queries by the court. Justice Azmat therefore asked him to reply the questions.

Naeem Bukhari insisted that PM Nawaz Sharif had lied to the nation as he had mentioned that it was the sale of Jeddah factory which enabled his sons to purchase the UK flats.

He said the PM in speeches and address to the nation asserted that Hassan Nawaz is living in London since 1994, while Hussain Nawaz is in Saudi Arabia since 2000. However, there are no documents when the Jeddah factory was established and sold.

Justice Azmat observed that the PM and his children had not submitted the complete documents regarding the matter.

Bukhari asked the court to initiate proceeding against NAB chairman under Article 209 of Constitution as he has failed to file appeal against the Lahore High Court judgment in Hudaibiya Paper Mills case. He said the chairman had wilfully and with mala fide intention did not file appeal.

The NAB in April 2000, on the basis of a confessional statement of (incumbent finance minister) Ishaq Dar had filed a reference against the members of Sharif family in Hudaibiya Mills case. However, it remained pending in the Accountability Court.

When the Sharif family came back from an eight years exile they, in 2011, filed a writ petition in the LHC against the NAB reference. A two-judge bench of Khawaja Imtiaz and Farrukh Imran gave a divisive order; therefore, the matter was sent to the referee judge Justice Sardar Shamim – who quashed the reference.

Bukhari argued that the LHC had not acquitted the accused of the charges but only quashed the case. He asked the bench that NAB chairman be directed to file appeal against the LHC judgment.

Justice Khosa said the matter is inseparably linked with the main case, adding; “If we sent the matter for appeal then we shall not be hearing the PTI petitions under Article 184(3) of Constitution.”

Justice Ejaz said the judgment of the referee judge has attained finality. “You are expanding the scope of the case, as your (PTI’s) basic contention was (legality of) four flats (owned by Sharifs in London),” he added.

Bukhari said the rich and powerful in this country get away with wrong doing while the poor have to face courts.

When the court explained to him about the legal consequence of the appeal in Hudaibiya Mills case, the PTI lawyer decided not to press that point. He, however, requested the court to give observation that NAB chairman has committed mala fide and wilful mistake by not filing the appeal.

The court proposed to him that he can file application before the NAB chairman regarding the matter and if he dismisses it then he can challenge that in the court. Justice Ejaz noted there is no prohibition in the high court order that the case could not be reopened.

During the proceeding, Bukhari again raised objection on the Qatari letter. He said if the letter is taken out then their (PTI’s) point on the ownership of the flats would be clear.

Justice Khosa said in 2011 and 2012 Maryam Safdar and Hussain Nawaz in interviews did not mention about the Qatari letter. He added that if the respondents would deny their statements then they would see. He also said that even the Financial Investigation Agency, Minerva Company and the Mossack Fonseca did not refer to the Qatari letter in their correspondence.

Naeem Bukhari urged the court not to believe in the Qatari letter. However, Justice Azmat said they could not disbelieve it before giving an opportunity to the other side to prove its veracity and authenticity. Justice Ejaz said the letter is essential to establish the money trail.

The court noted that if they exclude the Qatari letter then vacuum would be created. Justice Ijaz said without Qatari letter the entire chain (of events) would not be completed.

The issue of documentation of London flats was also discussed. The PTI lawyer said the original trust deed of 4-7-2006 was notarised in England in Nov 2016 and according to it, Hussain Nawaz is the beneficial owner of the companies Neilsen and Nescoll, and thus the London properties.

The court noted that signatories of the trust deed had not denied about their signatures. Justice Ijaz said this document has not been disputed by either of the parties.

Bukhari also argued on Maryam’s dependency issue. He said she had received total Rs680 million as gift from his father. He said that in her income tax return Maryam Safdar showed zero income from any source. The court said that she had mentioned about the gift money in her tax returns. The hearing was adjourned until today (Tuesday).