Freedom of religion is a fundamental right that exists only on paper in Pakistan. Each year thousands of Christians, forming 13% of the total population, suffer at the hands of religious bigots who use blasphemy as an excuse to ruin their life. Christian girls are increasingly being forced to convert to Islam. According to a report released by Pakistani NGO Aurat Foundation on 13 July 2015, around 1,000 girls are forced to convert to Islam every year in Pakistan. The victims of these forced conversions are largely girls from the Pakistani Christian and Hindu communities. Punjab province has become a hub of forced conversion; every time a case of gross injustice is reported in the media, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif merely orders an enquiry and subsequently the media frenzy is settled, while the victim remains without justice.
The Asian Human Rights Commission has received information of three forced conversions of minor Christian girls. On 9 November 2015, 13-year-old Sana John, a 5th grade student was abducted and forcefully converted to Islam in Haji Pura, Sialkot. Sana John was abducted and forcefully converted by Rambo, son of the local Muslim, who is now threatening Sana’s father Shahid John not to report the case, or his other daughter will be abducted as well. A kidnapping case, FIR no.933/15, was registered under section 356-B in the local police station on November 11 against Ali Hassan alias Rembo, Ali Raza Muslim, Razia Bibi (mother of Rembo) and Mohammad Bashir alias Nanha Qasai, but the concerned police did not take any legal action against the culprits. The police and local authorities have turned a blind eye and no one is helping the poor family in recovering their daughter.
In another case, a young Christian girl Agnes Shukat, daughter of Shukat Masih, resident of Lahore cantonment, was kidnapped on 20 November 2015 by Uzma, her Muslim employer and boutique owner. Though Agnes’s family had nominated Uzma in the FIR, a case of kidnapping was registered at the Lahore Cantonment police station against an unknown person upon duress from an army officer.
Kasur district, Punjab province is most prone to discrimination on religious grounds. It is the same district where a young Christian couple was burnt alive inside the brick kiln where they were employed. Even knowing the facts, the authorities have done nothing to protect the local Christian community under constant threat from the local majority populace. On 22 September 2015, a 22-year-old hearing impaired Christian woman was raped by her neighbor. According to the details, Safia Bibi was sitting inside her home when her neighbor M Umar, barged in and raped her. Upon pressure from local NGOs, the police arrested the culprit and FIR No. 271/15 was registered at the Raja Jang police station.
Pakistan’s Christian community is also systematically being denied freedom of expression and the right to propagate their religion. On 25 November 2015, the office of Gwahi TV, a Christian TV channel based in Karachi was set ablaze by unknown persons. In complicity with the arsonists, the police are trying to brush aside the incident as an accident caused due to a short circuit, despite clear evidence of burglary. The fire that lasted about half an hour burnt to ashes almost everything, including a Mac computer, DVDs, editing equipment, books, and records of their donors. Interestingly, the fire only destroyed valuable equipment leaving the blankets, curtains, wooden structure inside the office unscathed. The cameras used for video recording were missing, suggesting they were stolen by the arsonists. The locks inside the office were found broken, clear evidence of foul play, but the police insist it was an accident.
Pakistan has become a society religiously divided, rather than a nation united, after Islam was declared a state religion in the 1963 Constitution. The state has failed to give its minorities a sense of belonging, freedom and security. While the Constitution states that “subject to law, public order and morality, every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion”, in practice discriminatory laws limit people’s freedom of religion. Similarly, freedom of speech is constitutionally subject to “any reasonable restriction imposed by law in the interest and glory of Islam”. The proverbial Damocle’s sword of blasphemy law has further eroded religious harmony and pluralism.
In blasphemy cases, the accuser also becomes the prosecutor, the judge and the executor, extrajudicially killing innocent victims at his own discretion, without any fear of punishment. On the contrary, he—a murderer—is garlanded as the heir of heaven. Following the murder of Mr. Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti, judge of the Lahore High Court, by a fundamentalist for acquitting the accused in the famous case of Manzoor Masih and two others, the judiciary in Pakistan appears frightened to acquit under the pressure of strong militant organizations.
The state of Pakistan must play a pivotal role in including religious minorities and other vulnerable groups in the nation building process; no state in the world can survive or flourish by alienating its minorities. It is constitutionally, legally and morally incumbent upon the state to ensure freedom and safety of its entire citizenry, regardless of faith, color, creed or caste.
Asian Human Rights Commission:
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984
Panama Papers leaked; Sharif family under spotlight
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) makes 11.5 million secret documents available to the public for the very first time. The documents, coming from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, contain confidential attorney-client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities.
Eight off-shore companies were reported to have links with the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif.
According to documents available on the ICIJ website, the prime minister’s children Maryam, Hassan and Hussain “were owners or had the right to authorise transactions for several companies”.
The leaks breathe a new life into allegations of corruption that the Sharif family has long been haunted by.
At the forefront of the battle is Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, lead by its chairman Imran Khan.
April 4, 2016
‘The leaks are God sent’ says Imran Khan
PTI Chairman Imran Khan and his party aides consolidate their position on corruption allegations against the prime minister, demanding immediate action by the government to respond to the allegations.
This marks the beginning of what will be nearly a year long effort to resolve the Panama Papers case, also dubbed ‘Panamgate’ in the local media.
Later that afternoon, Maryam Nawaz tweets what appears to be a statement from the Sharif family spokesman. They are calling the revelations made under the Panama Papers leaks, a “distortion of information”.
The statement goes on to clarify that “Maryam Nawaz is not a beneficiary or owner of any of the companies” named in the leaked documents.
April 5, 2016
Under-pressure Sharif announces probe
Realising that silence may deepen the crisis, Sharif takes to the Pakistan Television (PTV) headquarters to address the nation and clear the air. The prime minister begins his speech with a subtle acknowledgment of the fact that he is using state apparatus to address a personal matter.
Visibly perturbed, Sharif says he is open to the formation of a judicial commission to probe his family’s alleged finances in offshore tax-havens.
He explains how his family business was ruined by the party of the Bhuttos from the 70s to the 90 and then was slowly built up again. “On Jan 2, 1972, Bhutto took over the foundry in Lahore, and hence our assets were lost in mere moments,” Mr Sharif confesses.
“My family was not involved in politics till much later, as such, even before I got into politics, we were an established industrial family,” he explained.
The prime minister goes on to speak about how his father established an industrial plant in Makkah, following the military coup in 1999. The plant, he says, was “later sold, and my sons invested the funds into their businesses.”
Denying the legitimacy of allegations targeting his family and himself, the prime minister assures the country he is open to legal scrutiny.
April 10, 2016
Khan wants CJP to head commission
Khan wants the government to promptly form an inquiry commission led by the serving Chief Justice of Pakistan, Anwar Zaheer Jamali. To the contrary, the government is keen on having ex-Supreme Court judges populate the bench.
April 13, 2016
Five ex-SC judges refuse to lead inquiry
Still in its infancy, ‘panamagate’ begins to ingress into the judicial sphere, albeit turbulently. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan reveals that the ex-Supreme Court judges contacted by the government to head the inquiry commission have turned down the offer.
Nisar regrets: “All of these judges after taking the time to think over the matter refused to lead the commission without giving any reasons.”
April 14, 2016
Frail, Sharif in London for check-up
Despite mounting criticism from local press and political parties, Sharif takes off for London citing a medical check up as the reason for this five-day tour.
A PML-N source reveals: “The prime minister was looking quite weak when he visited the Planning and Development Ministry a few days ago and the disclosures of his sons’ involvement in offshore business definitely had its political and health costs.”
The office bearer adds that apparently due to a mistake by surgeons during a previous medical procedure in London, Mr Sharif had bled profusely. He recovered, but not completely, and was advised to take breaks from his engagements for further treatment.
April 16, 2016
PML-N proposes ToRs
A government team headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar finalises the terms of reference (ToRs) for the proposed inquiry commission being formed to investigate the Panama Papers leaks.
The ToRs are meant to define a scope within which the investigation would take place. Understandably, this is going to be a matter of contention.
Mainly the government’s ToRs looked at empowering the proposed judicial commission to look into the following points:
To examine information relating to involvement of Pakistani citizens, persons of Pakistan origin and legal entities in off-shore companies in Panama or in any other country.
Involvement of former and present holders of public office in writing off their own bank loans or those of their immediate family members through political influence.
Transfer from Pakistan of funds which have originated from corruption, commissions or kickbacks, and to determine whether, in any case referred to above, any law for the time being in force in Pakistan has been infringed.
Maryam Nawaz expresses annoyance on PML-N’s response not being “robust” enough. The meeting also reportedly resolved that: “If at all the commission is formed it will be the one headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court as announced by the prime minister in his address to the nation.”
Despite having been rejected by five ex-SC judges, the Muslim League leadership is still adamant to see a retired judge of the Supreme Court heading the commission. Rumour has it; retired judge Sarmad Jalal Osmany has accepted the responsibility to lead the probe.
The opposition parties, however, are still unclear on how best to go about the probe.
April 19, 2016
Sharif returns to Pakistan
Amidst political turbulence, Sharif returns to Pakistan, eyeing a difficult job ahead of him.
April 22, 2016
‘Will resign if proven guilty,’ Sharif in second state address
In yet another address to the nation, Sharif announces that his government has decided to formally ask then Chief Justice of Pakistan to set up a judicial commission for investigations into Panama Papers leak.
“I challenge all those who allege tax fraud to come forward and present evidence. If charges are proved against me, I will resign immediately,” vowed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Sharif appears visibly piqued and spares no one while targeting his political opponents; the ‘hostile’ media, the regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf and his allies. He reserves the bulk of his criticism for Imran Khan.
April 25, 2016
Opposition rejects govt ToRs
Rejecting the inquiry commission proposed by the government, leaders from the PTI, PPP, MQM, PML-Qdemand the ToRs of any such commission be drafted in consultation with the opposition.
May 1, 2016
Bilawal asks Sharif to step down
Coming out strongly against the government, PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari calls on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down, until an inquiry into the money laundering allegations levelled at his family are completed.
“As long as the investigations into the Panama leaks are ongoing, you should resign. You can resume when you are absolved of the charges,” he said, reminding Mr Sharif of advice he had imparted for the former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani when the latter was facing multiple charges in court.
May 3, 2016
Opposition presents ToRs
After a joint meeting between opposition parties, a set of ToRs have been presented to the government and the media. The ToRs emphasise on initiating the inquiry into off-shore holdings, starting with the Sharif family.
Among other points, the ToRs enlist the following:
Whether a respondent, by concealing the ownership and source of income through which the properties were purchased has committed corrupt and illegal practices under the elections/tax laws.
A special law titled “Panama Papers (inquiry and Trial) Act 2016” should be passed to facilitate the investigation into the assets, both foreign and domestic, of the prime minister. The law shall be formed with the consensus of the opposition parties.
A special commission should be formed, headed by Chief Justice and comprising two other SC judges nominated by him.
The procedure of the inquiry shall be fully inquisitorial in character The commission should complete its inquiry in relation to the prime minister and his family in three months.
May 5, 2016
Govt rejects opposition’s ToRs
Rejecting the opposition’s draft of the ToRs for a judicial probe, the government indicated it was willing to sit with the opposition and to come up with ToRs that were focused on eliminating corruption and did not target the prime minister personally.
“The opposition wants the prime minister in the dock, without touching other politicians whose children also run offshore companies,” said Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, alleging that the opposition was not serious about holding an inquiry and only wanted to achieve their political goals by simply levelling allegations.
May 10, 2016
Raheel Sharif urges PM to resolve the Panama issue
Gen Sharif, according to a well-placed government source, conveyed a pointed message to the prime minister in a one-on-one meeting.
The army chief’s view was that the protracted controversy over Panama Papers investigation was affecting governance and national security and, therefore, the issue needed to be urgently brought to a close.
May 13, 2016
Supreme Court rejects inquiry commission
The Panamagate controversy takes a new turn as the Supreme Court returns the federal government’s request to appoint an inquiry commission to investigate the leaked document’s connection with the Sharif family.
“Formation of commission of inquiry under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 1956 (Act VI of 1956), looking to its limited scope, will result in the constitution of a toothless commission, which will serve no useful purpose, except giving bad name to it,” says a communication sent to the law secretary by Supreme Court registrar Arbab Mohammad Arif.
The letter also observes that the ToRs of the proposed commission are so “wide and open” that “it may take years” for the commission to conclude proceedings.
May 16, 2016
Sharif explains himself in landmark speech
The prime minister suggests the formation of a joint committee to draft the ToRs, which will establish the judicial commission he referred to in his first state address on the Panama Papers allegations.
In this speech, Sharif attempts to explain the ownership of his London Park Lane flats. Astonishingly, there is no mention of Qatari Prince Jassim.
The money used to purchase flats in London, he says, was linked to properties the Sharif family sold off in Pakistan decades ago.
‘Prime minister lied on the floor,’ Shah accuses Sharif
After the session, PTI says Sharif has mislead the assembly. “The prime minister lied on the floor of the house,” says PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
“We have rejected the prime minister’s speech and the chief justice has already rejected the ToRs prepared by the government. So we will see where do we go from here,” he adds.
May 18, 2016
Consensus to form ToR committee
After much back and forth, the federal government and opposition have agreed to form a 12-member committee in order to draft joint ToRs for an inquiry commission, which would probe the Panama Papers.
After a meeting with opposition members, information minister Pervaiz Rasheed said that government and opposition will name six legislators each to form the parliamentary committee.
May 22, 2016
Nawaz flies to London for heart surgery
Maryam Nawaz says cardiologists and surgeons carried out tests, following which they decided to go for an open heart surgery. The surgery will be performed on May 31, and opposition party leaders – including Imran Khan and Bilawal Bhutto – tweet their best wishes to Sharif. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also tweets good luck to Sharif.
Maryam dubs the surgery successful and thanks everyone for their prayers and good wishes.
The 12-member bipartisan parliamentary committee seems to have hit a dead end as both sides are not only refusing to budge from their positions on the issue of offshore companies but are also accusing each other of toughening their stance.
The opposition insists on starting the Panamagate probe from Sharif and his three children, whereas the government side wants to enact a law that would extend the scope of investigations but would not make any reference to the premier.
Opposition parties later in the month say they will take to the streets if the government doesn’t review its position on the ToRs.
June 24, 2016
PTI files petition with ECP against Sharif
PTI files a reference with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seeking disqualification of Sharif for allegedly concealing his assets.
Three days later, PPP also petitions the ECP to disqualify the prime minister and his family members. “The prime minister is not sadiq and ameen anymore and, therefore, is not eligible to hold a seat in the National Assembly,” says the petition, which also contains charges of money laundering, tax evasion and concealment of assets.
July 9, 2016
48 days later, Nawaz returns to Pakistan
Sharif returns home from London, kicking off discussions among analysts about what he should now do to secure his future as the chief executive of the country.
Upon his arrival in Lahore, the prime minister appears relaxed and lighter in weight than when he had left a month and a half ago.
The prime minister’s arrival also fuels discussions such as the one during which Mr Sharif had repeatedly been told about the need for having some formal deputies in place, minding the party and the government on his behalf, should the need arise.
July 12, 2016
PM advised to get tough with PTI
As he returns to work and is updated on the economic, security and political situation, Sharif is also determined to devise a plan to counter the PTI chief’s ‘propaganda’.
Khan had recently declared that he was now ready “to play the final round of matches” against the ruling party.
At the meetings in Raiwind, the prime minister is quoted as asking his advisers to prepare the ground for “multiple strategies” against opposition parties.
A PML-N politician from Lahore remarks that “the prime minister’s body language is that of a leader determined to stand firm against his opponents. He is in no mood to show leniency,” he says.
July 20, 2016
‘No more negotiations,’ says opposition
The opposition has decided not to negotiate anymore with the government over the ToR issue.
PTI had invited opposition parties to plot their future course of action after the government refused to accept their ToRs for a Panama specific probe.
Rather than adopting a hard-hitting stance against the government, opposition parties agreed to use their presence in the national and provincial assemblies to remind Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of his promise to hold a free and fair investigation into the Panamagate scandal.
August 3, 2016
Imran lashes out
Mr Khan regrets that four months had passed since the Panamagate made headlines, but not a single institution had moved or served notice on those whose names had appeared in the Panama Papers for allegedly committing money laundering and tax evasion.
In the run-up to the ‘movement for accountability’, PTI starts building pressure on the state institutions he believes are responsible for election rigging and rampant corruption in the country.
August 24, 2016
JI files ‘frivolous’ Panama petition in SC
Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Emir Sirajul Haq filed his party’s long-awaited petition on the Panama Papers leaks in the Supreme Court.
The petition doesn’t name Nawaz Sharif directly. PTI is expected to file a similar petition next week.
Four days later, the apex court returns the petition, terming it ‘frivolous’.
“This petition prima facie appears to be a frivolous petition within the contemplation of Order XVII Rule 5 of the Supreme Court Rules 1980,” says an order issued by the registrar office.
August 29, 2016
Seeking PM’s disqualification, PTI files petition with SC
The PTI files a petition with the Supreme Court seeking disqualification of prime minister Sharif from his office as well as the National Assembly.
The petition was filed by PTI’s counsel Naeem Bukhari on behalf of party chairman Imran Khan. It has been filed against 10 respondents, which include Nawaz Sharif, his daughter, sons and government institutions.
Bukhari told reporters that their petition is based on the prime minister’s May 16 speech delivered on the floor of the National Assembly.
“A statement delivered on the floor of an assembly possesses prestige,” he said, adding that were a lot of contradictions between the facts and the claims made by Nawaz.
September 25, 2016
Imran urges followers to put up ‘country’s biggest ever demonstration’
Khan appeals to people to fully participate in his party’s September 30 march to Raiwind in order to put pressure on state institutions which, according to him, are not working judiciously on the Panama Papers issue.
Doubling the political pressure on Nawaz Sharif, the PTI leadership decides to invite its workers to stage a sit-in outside the residence of Nawaz Sharif.
On their call, several thousand supporters of the PTI from different parts of the country reach Raiwind Road to participate in the “accountability movement” seen by many as a “do-or-die” act of Imran Khan.
October 7, 2016
Khan’s next plan: Islamabad lockdown
PTI chairman Imran Khan calls on party workers to lay siege to Islamabad on Oct 30, telling them to paralyse the capital until Sharif resigns or presents himself for accountability.
October 10, 2016
Imran asks court for early hearing
In a bid to increase pressure on the government, the PTI has asked the Supreme Court to hold an early hearing of its petition seeking to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his son-in-law retired Capt Mohammad Safdar and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for their alleged involvement in the Panamagate scandal.
October 20, 2016
SC accepts petitions
The Supreme Court of Pakistan started accepting petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf, Jamhoori Watan Party, Jamaat-i-Islami and others to begin the proceedings. “I welcome the judicial proceedings in connection with Panama Papers,” said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in reply.
In a statement issued after consultation with his legal team, he said, “The court of public opinion has been making decisions, it would be better to wait for the judiciary’s decision.”
October 28, 2016
SC forms a larger bench to formally initiate proceedings
The SC has formed a larger five-bench to hear petitions regarding Panama. Earlier, a three member bench accepted petitions filed by PTI and Sheikh Rashid, asking for the Prime Minister’s disqualification.
October 31, 2016
Imran’s lockdown threat inches closer to reality
Khan calls on supporters to gather in capital, but the numbers aren’t impressive. The government places shipping containers to block off routes from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa into Islamabad.
Khan rails against Sharif; government stands its ground.
November 1, 2016
First hearing: SC asks for ToRs, PTI calls off lockdown
It was win-win for all sides when the SC asked the government and the protesting PTI to present their respective ToRs, in case the court decided to constitute an inquiry commission on Panamagate.
The order allowed Imran Khan to save face and call off his plan to lock down the capital, while Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accepted the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the Panama Papers scam, which has been a bone of contention between the two parties since the scandal broke in April 2016.
The apex court had, on May 13, declined to accept the federal government’s plea to appoint a commission of inquiry to probe the Panamagate scandal.
November 2, 2016
PTI holds ‘thanksgiving’ rally
November 7, 2016
Sharif children submit replies to SC
The Sharif children’s counsel, Salman Aslam Butt, informed the bench that Hassan Nawaz has been running a business lawfully for the last 22 years and Hussain for 16 years.
He added that Maryam Nawaz is not dependent on the prime minister.
Denying allegations levelled in the petitions, Maryam said she is not the beneficiary owner of off shore companies, Nielsen and Nescoll, but only a trustee.
November 14, 2016
‘Good for selling Pakoras‘: PTI submits evidence
The PTI and the AML chief are two of the four parties who have submitted their documents. Analysing the evidence will be a five-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.
The court is currently considering whether or not to appoint a judicial commission to probe the Panamagate scandal.
The big question: how did Nawaz Sharif’s children pay for their London properties?
The Supreme Court questioned the quality of the evidence presented by PTI and deplored that their 680-page submission had almost nothing to do with the Sharif family’s London properties.
Pointing at PTI’s counsel Hamid Khan, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed observed that it seemed as if the petitioners were trying to bury the truth under their evidence that consisted mostly of newspaper clippings, which were only good for selling pakoras the day after publication.
Like a rabbit out of a hat, PML-N counsel Mohammad Akram Sheikh pulls out a document dated Nov 5, 2016 — marked private, confidential and not to be disclosed to any party, except for the benefit of the courts of Pakistan — on the letterhead of Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al Thani, who ruled Qatar from 2007 to 2013.
The letter states that Hamad’s father — Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani — had “longstanding business relations with Mian Mohammad Sharif” — Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s father — “which were coordinated through my eldest brother”.
In the year 1980, “Mian Sharif expressed his desire to invest a certain amount of money in the real estate business of Al Thani family in Qatar,” the document says.
The Supreme Court is not pleased to hear yet another explanation for how the Sharif family paid for its London properties, observing that both sides were doing their best to ensure that the court would eventually have to form a commission to decide the Panamagate case.
“This document has completely changed the public stand of the prime minister,” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa observed after the Sharif children’s newly-engaged counsel, Mohammad Akram Sheikh, presented before the court an attested letter from a former Qatari prime minister.
November 30, 2016
‘Shahbaz forged signatures’
PTI’s lead counsel in the Panamagate case Naeem Bukhari, before the Supreme Court, alleged that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had forged his cousin Tariq Shafi’s signatures on documents.
Addressing a five-judge bench, Bukhari said, “I dont want to say that Shahbaz Sharif forged Tariq Shafi’s signature but there is a difference in the signatures on the affidavit and the contract.”
During the hearing, the judges also discussed the evidence presented by Bukhari gathered from news sources.
The court observed, “If we make a judgement on the basis of news sources, then the PTI should also be worried.”
December 9, 2016
CJ Jamali’s retirement halts proceedings
Proceedings in the case have ended today as Chief Justice Zaheer Jamali is scheduled to retire. The Supreme Court said that arguments from both sides would commence afresh when hearings resume in January.
A five-judge larger bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa has been constituted by the Supreme Court to resume hearing of the Panama Papers case from January 4, 2017.
December 31, 2016
Flipping through lawyers; PM’s children change counsel again
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children submitted documents in the Supreme Court notifying a change of counsel in the Panamagate case.
According to the documents, Advocate Makhdoom Ali Khan will now represent Nawaz Sharif in court instead of Salman Aslam Butt.
Hassan and Hussain Nawaz will be represented by Salman Akram Raja, while Maryam Nawaz will be represented by Shahid Hamid.
January 4, 2017
New bench resumes hearing
The hearing of the Panamagate case resumed on Thursday where the five member bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, was appraised about details of the offices held by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his political career.
Naeem Bukhari, who represents PTI’s chief Imran Khan sought court’s permission to refer to a number of interviews of the Prime Minister, his spouse and children at different point of time to highlight that every one of them took a divergent stand about the ownership of the London properties.
Bukhari cited an April 10, 2000, interview of Begum Kalsoom Nawaz by Rory McCarthy of The Guardian in which she conceded that London flats were bought because her son was studying.
At this, Justice Saeed again cautioned the counsel that he was entering into a dangerous territory, adding that if “we start hanging people on television interviews or news paper clippings then your client will not survive either.”
January 6, 2017
Burden of proof becomes a sticking point
Members of the Supreme Court bench hearing the Panamagate case expressed divergent opinions over which side shouldered the burden of proof.
While Justice Asif Saeed Khosa — who heads the five-judge bench — placed the burden of proof on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family, Justice Azmat and Justice Ejaz, differed.
January 12, 2017
‘Two different money trails’ puzzle the bench
The prime minister’s counsel is quizzed about a money trail for the London flats and is asked to prove there were no inconsistencies in the prime minister’s speech in the National Assembly last year.
“There are two different money trails before us. How did the money go from Jeddah and then to London? And how did the money go from Dubai to London and then Qatar?” the judge asked.
January 13, 2017
Sharif family’s flats purchased in 1990s, BBC report reveals
Properties owned by the Sharif family in London’s upscale Park Lane neighbourhood were purchased in the 1990s and there has been no change of ownership since then, BBC Urdu has reported.
According to official documents available with BBC Urdu, the four flats were purchased in the name of the Nielsen and Nescoll companies.
According to the documents, an official record of companies doing business in the United Kingdom reveals that when Hassan Nawaz established Flagship Investment Ltd in 2001, the address he provided at the time of registration of the company was that of his Park Lane apartment.
Hussain had said: “The Park Lane apartments in London are ours, two offshore companies, Nielsen and Nescoll, own these flats and I am the beneficial owner of these companies, working under a trust held by my sister Maryam Nawaz Sharif.”
In her reply, she maintained that she was not her father’s dependent after her marriage in 1992 to Captain Safdar, and that she lived with her husband after her wedding.
January 23, 2017
German daily tweets trouble for Maryam
German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Monday tweeted documents to ‘help’ Pakistanis form their own opinion on the role of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter in Panamagate.
“For those in Pakistan who doubt the role of the prime minister’s daughter Mariam Safdar in Panama Papers – some of the documents. Judge yourself,” Süddeutsche Zeitung tweeted, along with attachments purporting to show her involvement with Minerva Financial Services. Maryam Safdar is her legal name after marriage.
January 26, 2017
Second letter from Qatari royal
A second letter is floated by Hussain Nawaz’s counsel, ‘clarifying’ Sharif’s investment in Gulf Steel Mills. The letter is accompanied by transaction details and auditor’s reports regarding the Gulf Steel Mills in Dubai and the Azizia Steel Mills in Jeddah.
“The investment was made by way of provision of cash which was common practice in the Gulf region at the time of the investment. It was also, given the longstanding relationship between my father and Mr Sharif, a customary way for them to do business between themselves,” the letter states.
“At the end of 2005, after receiving all accruals and other distributions made over the term of the investment, it was agreed that an amount of approx $8,000,000 was due to Mr Sharif. The amount due to him was settled in 2006,” the letter explains, “by way of the delivery to Mr Hussain Nawaz Sharif’s representative of bearer shares of Nescoll Ltd and Nielsen Enterprises Ltd, which had been kept during that time in Qatar.”
January 27, 2017
SC orders NAB to submit Hudaibiya reference record on Dar’s ‘confession’
As part of the Panamagate case hearing, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s lawyer Shahid Hamid addressed allegations against his client pertaining to the Hudaibiya Paper Mills default reference investigated by NAB.
Hamid read from Dar’s confessional statement in court: “After the military coup, I was first kept under house arrest then was offered a position in that government in exchange for cooperation. I was made to sign a pre-written statement and then was arrested again.”
“The army kept me captive till 2001, after which I told Rauf Klasra everything in a detailed interview and denied the statement that I was made to sign at the time,” he finished.
January 31, 2017
Supreme Court concerned over NAB, Qatari letters
As the Pamanagate case hearing resumed, NAB Prosecutor General Waqas Qadeer Dar was called once again to the stand and questioned why the ruling in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case was not appealed.
During the hearing, the five-judge bench also questioned the absence of any mention of the Qatari investments in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech in the National Assembly and in Tariq Shafi’s affidavit presented to the apex court.
“We were told that all evidence had been made available, and that perhaps it was we who were unable to see it in its entirety,” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said in stern admonishment to Akram.
February 15, 2017
The Panama ‘onion’: PTI presents ‘new evidence’
The bench had postponed day-to-day proceedings after Justice Saeed had to be rushed to the Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology following chest pains on Jan 31.
“We are submitting three more documents — one from PTI chairman Imran Khan that authenticates all previous documents presented by the party, the expert opinion of UK-based lawyers and a document that proves that Maryam Nawaz is the owner of UK-based firms Minerva, Nielson and Nescoll,” PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry told a press conference.
“Where is the actual document to show that Hussain Nawaz, the elder son of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is the owner of the four London flats?” asked Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, a member of the five-judge Supreme Court bench who rejoined proceedings after recovering from a cardiac ailment.
The prime minister’s counsel argued that the petitioners had failed to link Nawaz Sharif to any wrongdoing, nor found any culpability.
They positioned themselves arguing that since no serious charge has yet been established against the prime minister except general allegations, there is no possibility of holding his children accountable for the allegations levelled by petitioners.
Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan regretted that the court was getting bogged down, describing the case as an onion, that yielded a new surprise every day.
“Every day, new documents and new queries are coming up. How shall we sum it all up?” the judge observed.
February 16, 2017
Surprise: Maryam trustee of London flats for six months, admits Maryam’s lawyer
The lawyer for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s sons sprang a new surprise before the Supreme Court by claiming that the bearer share certificates of the four London flats remained in the custody of Maryam Nawaz — the prime minister’s daughter — between February and July 2006.
Salman Akram Raja told the court that a trust deed was executed between Maryam and Hussain Nawaz in February 2006, following which she acted as a trustee for her brother.
The confession could prove to be a major blow to the Sharif’s case.
February 18, 2017
Consider Qatari letters void: Imran asks SC
Imran Khan has submitted an affidavit to the SC, asking it to ignore the two Qatari letters produced by the Sharif family as evidence of their stance in the case.
In the 24-page affidavit, the PTI leader termed the letters a wonderful example of reverse reconstruction, clearly concocted to cater to the issues before the apex court. The letters, he argued, were simply ‘unbelievable’ and an alleged puerile attempt by a rich Qatari to come to the aid of a rich Pakistani.
February 20, 2017
Record of Hudaibiya, Raiwind references submitted to SC
Today, NAB furnished the Supreme Court with records of two corruption references filed against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other members of his family over a decade ago.
One deals with the Hudaibiya Paper Mills scam, while the other related to the illegal construction of the Sharif family’s Raiwind Estate.
February 22, 2017
‘If a story has been made up, you should stick to it’
The Attorney General of Pakistan (AG) told the bench that the case record in the Hudaibiya reference had been examined and that the company had obtained loans through foreign currency accounts.
At this, Justice Saeed expressed the bench’s frustration by saying that the lawyers were issuing different statements each time, which was confusing the bench.
“If a story has been made up, you should stick to it,” he remarked.
“The court was told that investments had been made in the Qatari [royal family’s] businesses. There was no mention of foreign currency accounts in the repayment of loans.”
Addressing the AG, Justice Saeed said: “You should argue as the attorney general. Don’t become a party [to the case].”
February 23, 2017
Panamagate hearings conclude; judgement awaited
After both the defence and prosecution completed their arguments, the SC said it would reserve its verdict on the Panamagate case and issue a detailed judgement.
“It seems ‘justice’ is whatever serves [each party’s] interests,” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa remarked as the arguments wound up.
“If a judgement is not in someone’s interest, they [will] say the judiciary is corrupt, or that maybe the judges aren’t fit to handle such cases,” he commented, adding; “And if a judgement benefits their own stand [on the issue], they will say there can be no better judge.”
“We will decide this case only by the law; such that people will say, 20 years down the line, that this judgement was made by the book,” concluded Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.
Additional reporting by Nasir Iqbal, Irfan Raza, Tariq Naqash, Amir Wasim, Naveed Siddiqui and Haseeb Bhatti. Header illustration by Fahad Naveed.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AHRC-STM-007-2017 10 February 2017
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
PAKISTAN: Government outsources justice dispensation
It is unimaginable for any democratic, law-abiding society to outsource its key function of justice. And yet, the Government of Pakistan first outsourced the dispensation of justice to the military, and now to the Panchayat and Jirga, which are known for aiding and abetting grave human rights abuses, and are the primary cause of rising honour killings and cruelties by the powerful people in the country.
On 3 February 2017, the National Assembly passed the “Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) Bill” 2016, which gives legal and constitutional cover to the country’s centuries-old Jirga and Panchayat systems. With the promulgation of the bill, the state aims to ensure speedy redress of petty civil matters and reduce the burden of litigation on courts.
Instead of mainstreaming one constitution throughout the country, the state is enacting arbitrary law, which can only weaken the already fragile writ of state and rule of law. Pakistan’s archaic laws and collapsing judicial system is signalling a regression to medieval times, bringing the country on the verge of anarchy and chaos. Although civil society activists legal experts have long demanded an overhaul of the criminal justice system, the state’s priorities have always laid elsewhere.
By strengthening the Panchayat and Jirga system (which was previously declared illegal by Pakistan’s judiciary), its abuse of human rights, particularly against the weak and vulnerable, is given legal cover and institutionalized. Women’s rights activists have expressed their concerns, citing the karo kari (honour killings) incidents that have been ongoing with complete impunity due to the Jirgas.
The 20-point National Action Plan that the state is claiming to follow in the enactment of this bill has envisaged a complete overhauling and reforming of the criminal justice system. Far from a reformation of the system, the ADR bill is a testament to a collapsing judicial system.
The Law Minister tabled the bill initially in the federal capital, and it will gradually be implemented in other provinces with the consent of provincial governments, as amendments in civil laws are in the domain of the provinces.
It is pertinent to mention that a mere 23 members in a 342 member’s house, less than the required quorum, passed the bill. It must be asked why such an important bill was passed without extensive deliberation, and why no consultations with legal experts were held. Moreover, the Act backtracks on the Supreme Court order of 2012 holding the Jirga system to be illegal and unconstitutional. Earlier in 2004, the Sindh High Court banned all trials conducted under the Jirga system throughout Sindh, and ordered that all those found violating the order would be charged with contempt.
Given the sensitive nature of the bill, the legislators should have been extra cautious to leave no ambiguity to cause any potential abuse; unfortunately, the bill is replete with ambiguity. The appointment of mediators for instance, called ‘neutrals’ is provided for by stating that:
“The government, after consultation with the high court, shall notify in the official gazette a panel of neutrals for each district from amongst lawyers, retired Judges of superior and subordinate judiciary, retired civil servants, social workers, ulema, jurists, technocrats and expels and such other persons of repute and integrity having such qualifications and experience as may prescribed.”
The Bill does not mention how ‘repute, integrity and other qualifications’ is to be determined however. How will the government ensure that the neutral is unbiased against the vulnerable factions of society, and not prejudiced against minority and women? In fact, the appointment of such neutrals is a farce, as several parliamentarians have reportedly been presiding over these Jirgas, thus perpetuating the feudal system. The vested interest of the legislators becomes apparent by a perusal of the definitions clause:
Definitions.— In this Act, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context, — (a) ‘Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR)’ means a process in which parties resort to a method of resolving the dispute other than by adjudication by Courts and includes arbitration, mediation and dispute resolution through Panchayat;
The inclusion of Panchayat exposes the true and vested interest of the legislators who are mostly feudal lords themselves, and regularly preside over such proceedings, charge hefty sums.
The state has also not ensured that human rights of the litigants are not abused. In case of human rights abuse, the aggrieved party has no redressal. The act also provides no dispute resolution as the Pakistan Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code are not applicable. Moreover, Section 19 of the Bill states
19) (3) No legal proceedings shall lie against a Neutral or any other person or official associated in the ADR process for any act done or omitted to be done in good faith in the course of the performance of his functions, in reference to such ADR.
To reconcile the call for speedy expeditious justice while easing the backlog of cases from the lower judiciary, the state should have set up more ADR Centers instead of regularizing the panchayat. The civil society’s contention with the law is that Panchayats are legalized through the act. The ADR should have been limited to petty civil matters; by extending the ambit to criminal matters the panchayat has been bolstered to extend its clout.
The Act requires more scrutiny and should have been passed after extensive consultation with civil society to make it abuse free. In its current form, the bill has the potential to cause abuse and miscarriage of justice.
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The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is a Laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, 2014.
KARACHI: Pakistan is the eighth country most vulnerable to climate change in the world. The coastal areas are the most emergent threats and hundreds of kilometres area is susceptible to sea intrusion.
This was revealed by Karachi University institute of environmental studies registrar and professor Dr Moazzam Ali Khan during a climate conference on Monday. The event was organised by Youth Parliament.
“Rainfall on the coastal belt has decreased by 20%,” said Khan, adding that exotic species on the coast are also disappearing.
Addressing the young audience, journalist Afia Salam questioned them about their aspirations for future. While many expressed their desires to work in fields such as media, law and business, few to none hands were raised when agriculture and climate was brought into question.
Climate and environment issues are interlinked with all professions, claimed Salam. “We don’t have lawyers on water disputes in the country,” she said. “People here don’t understand it. Instead, we have to hire international lawyers when the local talent cannot fill up such roles.”
Reiterating Moazzam’s point, she said that in the last four years Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change has increased along with the shrinking of Indus Delta.
Environmental degradation does not only occur due to climate change, said Dr Aamir Alamgir, PhD on climate change. “A lot of the degradation can be avoided if actions are taken on time,” he said.
Balochistan Assembly speaker Raheela Hameed Durrani also questioned the government’s inability to prevent deterioration of the environment. A think tank should be formed that will focus on the climatic challenges faced by all four provinces of the country, she suggested.
“I welcome the youth to step out, we will provide you the opportunity to move forward with us,” she said.