Pakistan’s Supreme Court judges today said that documents submitted by a probe team in the Panama Papers case showed that ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif received a salary in August 2013 from the UAE-based company owned by his son. The apex court judges said this while hearing the review petitions filed by Sharif against the verdict of July 28 that had disqualified him for dishonesty, Dawn newspaper reported.
The court had also ordered filing of corruption cases against him and his children over the scandal. Sharif, 67, was disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) for failing to declare unclaimed wages earned as an executive of a Dubai-based company owned by his son in the assets statement he filed alongside his nomination papers for NA-120 (Lahore) seat in the 2013 general elections.
Justice Ejaz Afzal said that the employment agreement stated that a salary of 10,000 dirhams had been set for Sharif as the chairman of Capital FZE. “The Joint Investigation Team documents tell us that Sharif had an account to receive the salary,” said Justice Ijazul Ahsan, adding that according to the findings, [Sharif’s] first salary was drawn on August 1, 2013.
The court observed that Sharif did not submit any documentary evidence to substantiate his oral claim of not using any salary from Capital FZE. Senior counsel Khawaja Haris, representing Nawaz Sharif, said that although his client was not backtracking from the employment agreement, he did not have a bank account for the purpose. “The question is, how can the court accept verbally that Nawaz Sharif did not receive the salary?” questioned Justice Afzal, adding that a statement could not be accepted without scrutiny under the law of evidence.
Not every salary is an asset, Haris argued, adding that a salary is either in cash or deposited into bank. “If a person eats a burger from an amount of money, the asset would belong to the burger-seller,” Justice Azmat Saeed observed.
The counsel said he had been unable to find any precedents in which the court had applied Article 62(1)(f) to disqualify a public representative for not disclosing assets. The Constitution does not specify the life-time limit of disqualification under Article 62, he claimed. “Sharif did not merit disqualification only on the basis that although he had not withdrawn salary [from Capital FZE], it still constituted as an asset [due to being a receivable],” he said.
The counsel contended that cases could not be filed against the Sharif family on the basis of the JIT report, which he said was “incomplete”. “We did not issue the verdict in light of the JIT report,” Justice Afzal responded, adding that the petitioners have the full right to defence in the accountability court.
One of the four cases against Sharif and his children is about purchase of four luxury flats in the posh Park Lane area of London.