LAHORE - The qatari prince who had refused to testify the letters written by him in favour of Sharifs’ money trail in their Panama-detected foreign assets reached the city and separately met former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif at Jati umra and Model Town, respectively.
Leading a 13-member Qatari delegation, Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim spent three hours in the city after he arrived here in a special plane and was led to Jati Umra residence of the sharifs with full protocol. Former Ehtesab Bureau chairman and a close friend of Nawaz Sharif, Saifur Rehman Khan, also accompanied Hamad from Doha where they jointly own a company titled Redco International which is described as a leading industrial manufacturing and contracting group operating in Qatar since 1982.
After spending around two hours at the Sharifs’ farmhouse, Prince Jassim was driven to the Model Town residence of the CM where he held around a half an hour meeting with Shehbaz Sharif. Later, Nawaz Sharif also joined the meeting. Nawaz Sharif himself drove the car of the prince which showed how intimate friends they are. Later, the Qatari delegation flew to Karachi where Prince Hamad bin Jassim and his team attended the official ceremony in connection with the 1120MW Port Qasim coal-fired power plant developed with the help of China and Qatar.
No official statement of the Jati Umra meeting was released to the media while a bit information the media reported came through sources. According to these sources, matters of mutual interest and business deals were discussed at the meeting of Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim with Nawaz. While at the Model Town meeting, bilateral ties and LNG projects in Punjab came under discussion.
The media also reported that Sheikh Jassim’s visit to the city was not officially scheduled. He was supposed to appear before law in Pakistan in the cases against the sharifs , but he failed to do so when the Supreme Court-designated joint investigation team (JIT) in the Panama repeatedly served notice on him for appearance. The JIT members for the convenience of Prince Jassim had even travelled to Qatar to record his statement at the Pakistani embassy in Doha as a matter of jurisdiction of Pakistan law, but he refused to come to the Pakistan embassy there.
Earlier, during the course of hearing of the Panama leaks petitions, two letters on behalf of Prince Jassim were presented to the Supreme Court to support the money trail of the sharifs regarding purchase of apartments in London. Hamad bin Jassim, through the letters, claimed the London properties of Sharif family were purchased from the proceeds of their real estate businesses in which Nawaz Sharif’s father, Mian Muhammad Sharif, had invested 12 million dirhams in 1980. The court wanted to hear the prince on the veracity of the letters, but he did not show up, so they were dumped as bogus for not meeting legal requirements.
The Supreme Court, in its final decision, disqualified Nawaz Sharif as a member of the parliament, which also deprived him of premier office on July 28.
At present, Nawaz Sharif family is facing trial in three NAB references after they declined the charges. So far, no stage is obvious in the references in which the money trail issue can come up before the court and importance of the Qatari letters could increase, particularly in the Avenfield reference. Before the Supreme Court, the NAB appeal for reopening of Hudaibiya Papers Mills is under proceeding. This reference will go to trial after the Supreme Court decision for its reopening. In Hudaibiya reference, 10 members of the Sharif family have been made respondents.
It is also pertinent to mention here that in February 2016, Pakistan and Qatar signed $16 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal which will met the fuel needs of Pakistan over the next 16 years.
The sale and purchase agreement was signed by the then petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for Pakistan and Qatargas Board of Directors Chairman Saad Sherida in Doha in the presence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani.