ISLAMABAD  - Answering 55 questions of the total 128 queries handed over to him by the trial court in the Avenfield properties reference, Nawaz Sharif on Monday denied the ownership of London properties and also detached himself from the Gulf Steal Mills affairs.

At the same time, the ousted premier expressed his serious concerns at all Joint Investigation Team (JIT) members and their impartiality.

The Avenfield reference, pertaining to the Sharif family’s London flats, is among the three references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the light of the Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case.

The ex-PM, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, and son-in-law Capt (r) Muhammad Safdar, had been asked by the trial court through a set of questionnaire to record their final statements in their defence in the references under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Responding to a question regarding his address to the nation and his speech on the floor of the National Assembly, Sharif categorically stated that “I had never claimed before the apex court that I was ever a real or beneficial owner of the Avenfield properties”.

“This is my stance throughout, as much as in the instant case”, the former premier said adding: “I was never involved or associated in any capacity whatsoever in the acquisition of any real or beneficial title of Avenfield properties or providing means or funds for any such acquisition.”

Responding to a question regarding the loan taken to establish Gulf Steel Mills in the UAE, he said that he “was never associated or involved with the setting up of the said mill and had no direct knowledge of the details pertaining to the provisions of finances by which it was set up”.

During his testimony, Nawaz Sharif said that he could not say anything about the documents his son Hussain Nawaz had submitted in the apex court with regard to the London apartments.

In reply to a question relating to forensic expert Robert M Radley, he said that Radley was not a “font expert” and that he had admitted in his statement that the Calibri font was available prior to its launch in 2007.

Answering a question regarding the composition of JIT members, Sharif said that “the JIT was formed only to assist the Supreme Court for disposing of constitution(al) petitions pending before it and the purpose of constituting the JIT exhausted after the Supreme Court passed the order”.

In his reply, he declared the formation of the JIT, its prepared report, conclusions drawn and the recorded opinion as “inappropriate and irrelevant” against him in the Avenfield properties case.

With respect to the JIT members, the former premier expressed his reservations and questioned their impartially.

Referring to the relationship of Bilal Rasool, who was inducted as member of the JIT from Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), with former Punjab governor Mian Muhammad Azhar, Sharif said: “Bilal Rasool along with his immediate family members has been an ardent supporter of the Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI).”

In his reply, the PML-N supreme leader has also mentioned remarks of Bilal’s wife on the social media in favour of the PTI and declared her an active supporter of the rival party.

Similarly, the former premier has also criticised the impartiality of JIT member Amir Aziz stating that he was the person, who was called on a deputation by former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf, and was made member of a team that was constituted “to implicate me and my family in several false and concocted criminal cases”.

Showing his reservations about Irfan Naeem Mangi, a JIT member from NAB, Nawaz Sharif said that “his appointment and induction in NAB was under scrutiny on the directions of another three-member bench of the apex court, when he was made part of JIT”.

The former premier in his reply declared the induction of two intelligence agencies’ officers – Brig Noman Saeed from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Brig Kamran Khursheed from the Military Intelligence (MI) – as “inappropriate”.

“Their appointments were inappropriate with the obvious fallout on the JIT proceedings, given the civil-military tension that has plagued the country throughout its 70 year history,” he said.

Also, the former premier reiterated his claim that Brig Noman was a “source employee under a contract which is not recognised as legal, and officially, neither his association with the ISI nor his pay is reflected in any official record”.

He said that Noman was also a member of an inquiry committee formed to probe the Dawn leaks issue, which further heightened civil-military tensions.

In his reply, Sharif also said that during the course of the JIT probe and the filing of the references, he was not given the right to a free trial as enshrined in Article 10-A of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Nawaz said that serious questions had been raised over NAB’s acquisition of the JIT report from SC as there was no record of the acquisition available with the apex court and the official who acquired it had not been included as a witness in the case.

He added that following SC’s verdict in the Panama Papers case, the investigating officer was forced to file the references against him as he had no other options.

Regarding the NAB allegations that he had failed to appear despite being served a notice, he has replied that “he never personally received the notice nor was there any evidence to prove that the security officer at his Jati Umra residence received it”.

He clarified that he directed his lawyers to file a reply after finding out about the notice through the media.

The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday (tomorrow) when Sharif will continue recording his statement.

 

 

Nawaz denies ownership of London flats

 

MUHAMMAD ASAD CHAUDHRY