NationalVolume 12 Issue # 22

Subversion of justice

After verbal attacks by government ministers and legislators, government institutions have ganged up against the join investigation team (JIT) to stop it from reaching a possibly adverse conclusion against the ruling family in the Panama case.

According to an application, submitted by the joint investigation team (JIT) in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, government institutions and departments are providing tampered records to it, creating obstacles to the probe and even threatening its members. It also apprehended that the challenges could leave it unable to complete the investigation within the stipulated two-month timeframe. In its application, the JIT said that Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Chairman Zafarul Haq Hijazi “was instrumental in closing the investigation of a money laundering case launched against the Chaudhry Sugar Mills Limited, which is owned by the Sharif family, in 2016. This act of backdated closure of investigation is a criminal act, with a view to facilitating the Sharif family.”

It said the SECP chairman’s orders to tamper with the record and drop investigations against the Chaudhry Sugar Mills Limited were executed by SECP Executive Director Ali Azeem Ikram, who was incidentally nominated initially by the chairman to be a member of the JIT, with a clear intent to subvert the investigation. The JIT also accused the SECP chairman, who has been very close to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, of restricting his officers from complying with its requests. The facts came before the JIT after a conscientious officer of the organization spilled the beans before it. His name was withheld for security reasons. According to sources, the SECP chairman had managed the deputation of his man in the Federal Judicial Academy, where the JIT is holding its proceedings. The employee leaked the picture of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son sitting in a room, which provided ammunition to the government to bash the JIT. The SECP chairman also leaked the record of correspondence and phone calls between him and the Supreme Court of Pakistan Registrar to a pro-government media house, to create an impression that the court wanted its favoured officers to punish the Sharif family though the JIT.

The role of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was also questioned by the JIT in the investigation of its members. An application filed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz to the court in which he had objected to two members of the JIT highlighted how the government was using the civilian secret agency for its personal gains. Hussain Nawaz’s application against two JIT members — Bilal Rasul of the SECP and Amer Aziz of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) — carried copies of computerized national identity cards (CNIC) of Bilal Rasul and his uncle Mian Azhar, the former Punjab governor, who was once close to the Sharif family but now has joined the PTI of Imran Khan. The CNIC copies bore the requisitioning number printed by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), which showed they had been obtained by the IB and provided to Hussain Nawaz. In another allegation, the JIT said Hussain’s application contained copies of screenshots from the social media account of Bilal Rasul and his family. “The Facebook account of Bilal Rasul, which is also used by his wife/family, was ostensibly hacked to retrieve the contents attached [with the application]… without the consent of Bilal Rasul or his family. It was done ostensibly through the facilitation of the IB,” it noted and added some field staff of the IB were “found loitering” near the house of one of the JIT members on May 24, and they later “adversely questioned” the housekeeper of the JIT member, causing fear amongst his family members.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif extended the contract of Intelligence Bureau (IB) DG Aftab Sultan for the third time last year. He was appointed by the prime minister after coming to power in 2013. He enjoys the prime minister’s trust and was appointed the IG Punjab before the 2013 general elections by the then caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Najam Sethi, who is also very close to the prime minister. It is said he had also produced desired results for the government during the PTI sit-in in Islamabad.

The JIT also accused the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) of employing an underhand strategy to intimidate one of its members, Irfan Naeem Mangi, who is NAB Balochistan Director General. He was served a notice by the NAB on April 25, 2017, for “not having the required experience at the time of his induction in the NAB in 2004.” When he sought some time from his boss to respond to the notice as he was performing the JIT duty, the NAB sent him a letter on May 31, 2017, directing him to submit his reply within 15 days “failing which an ex-parte decision would be taken against him”. It is clear the notice aimed to harass him, so that he remained within limits.

In their replies to the court, the government departments have rejected all allegations of the JIT, as was expected from them. However, the efforts of the government departments to save Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family are not suprising, because he has appointed all his relatives, friends or friends of friends as heads of government departments and it’s payback time. At least 22 relatives of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are in politics including his brother, who is the chief minister of the Punjab, a nephew, who is the state minister for power, and the finance minister, who is the father-in-law of his daughter. At least 84 government departments are headed by his relatives and handpicked people. If government departments are threatening the JIT and hampering its working, it is understandable.

According to sources, two members of the JIT, who belong to the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI), and their families have also received life threats and they have informed their departments and the court about it. If the unknown officers from the top secret agencies of the country are facing life threats to them and their families, what could be the level of dangers to the civilian members of the JIT?