LAHORE -  Senior lawyers are divided over whether it is the prime minister’s responsibility to prove that he had purchased the London flats through lawful means or it is the PTI chairman who is under obligation to refute the ruling family’s claims.

However, they are united on the point that the letter of the Qatari prince has no legal value unless he personally appears if the court summons him and unless the authenticity of the letter is proven by either way.

A larger bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali, is hearing the petition of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members over the alleged London flats.

Some lawyers say it is the responsibility of PTI, being petitioner of the case, to furnish evidence in the SC while the SC itself can also take notice of it, with directions to the state departments for evidence. Others say it depends on the situation and proceedings of the case, adding it is a shared responsibility as both petitioners and respondents are bound to prove their claims.

A legal technicality is, however, involved in the Qatari prince’s letter. It has no legal value unless it is not authenticated with his personal appearance in the court, say the lawyers. They say if the prince cannot appear in the court to testify personally about it, then the court would examine its value by checking his signatures on the letter.

Talking to The Nation, former Supreme Court Bar President Asma Jahangir said, “It is the responsibility of PTI to refute the claims of the ruling party regarding London flats”. She said as per the international rule, burden of proof lies on PTI, being the petitioner. However, she said the Qatari prince’s letter has no legal value unless he appears in the court to verify its genuineness.

Lahore High Court Bar Association President Rana Zia Abdur Rehman asserted that the letter of the Qatari prince has no legal value unless he personally appears in the court and testifies its authenticity. “The prince can be summoned by the SC to verify that the letter is genuine and its contents are correct,” he said. Without his appearance in the court, the letter is of no legal significance, Rana Zia added. Answering a question, Rana Zia lauded the services of former Supreme Court Bar President Hamid Khan for the legal fraternity and condemned those who are maligning him.

Salman Akram Raja, however, said submission of proofs is the responsibility of both sides and not of any particular party in the said case. SM Zafar said the Qatari prince’s letter is worthless until he appears personally in the court, if he is summoned and records his statement about its genuineness. He said, no doubt, petitioners always produce evidences to establish their claim against the respondents but, sometimes, it depends on the situation of the case when the respondents are demanded for furnishing evidence to prove their own stance.

Dr Khalid Ranjha said “in financial matters, the accused is always asked to submit evidence whether or not he possesses any asset, so the PM is bound to prove his claim in the Panama leaks,” He termed the Qatari prince’s letter worthless unless it is proven authentic, which seems very difficult. When asked that Qatari prince does not fall under the jurisdiction of the SC so that he could be summoned then how the letter would be checked, he replied “ SC will not pass any order which it thinks will not be implemented,”. When asked could the ministry of foreign affairs play its role to get the letter approved from the prince he said “it is possible when there is treaty between the states, otherwise, there is no way.”

Former Lahore High Court Bar Association President Pir Masood Chishti said PTI has to prove the illegality of assets of the PM and his family. He said the letter of the Qatari prince could only become evidence if proven true. The court can appoint any person as a witness to verify the fact about any matter in question, said Advocate Sheeba Qaisar. She stated under the international rule petitioners have to furnish evidence, adding the court can also direct the respondents or any state agency to provide evidence.