All eyes on SC as Panamagate case hearing begins today

ISLAMABAD: All eyes are on the Supreme Court that will commence the hearing of the Panama Papers case on Tuesday — a hearing that has the potential of further increasing or decreasing the prevailing political temperature in the country.

A five-judge Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Amir Hani Muslim, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Hassan will commence the proceedings just a day ahead of the anticipated lockdown of Islamabad by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

On the docket is a set of petitions moved by Advocate Tariq Asad, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq, PTI chief Imran Khan and Awami Muslim League head Sheikh Rashid Ahmed asking for the appointment of a judicial commission to investigate the investment made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and members of his family in an offshore investment company called Mossack Fonseca.

The petitioners are also seeking disqualification of the prime minister and his close family members for their alleged investment in offshore companies.

“I am quite confident that Tuesday’s proceedings before the Supreme Court will be significant and meaningful with some positive solution coming out of it,” commented a senior counsel on the condition of anonymity. But he chose not to explain further what he meant by meaningful proceedings.

As the capital administration is busy blocking the routes leading to the Red Zone where the Supreme Court is situated, the apex court itself has made security arrangements for proper court decorum and smooth hearing in the court room No. 1.

Already security has been beefed up and in view of the limited seating capacity in the Court Room No. 1, the court administration has announced that entry would be regulated through special security passes to be issued by the Supreme Court.

Consequently, only the petitioners or respondents whose cases are fixed in court will be allowed to enter in the Supreme Court premises. But advocates and journalists who regularly come for Supreme Court proceedings will be exempted.

Therefore, entry into the court building will be allowed after checking/frisking and searching of bags/purses whereas no cell phone will be allowed to be carried inside the courtroom.

On Tuesday former attorney general Salman Aslam Butt submitted his attorney to represent prime minister, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and son-in-law retired Capt Mohammad Safdar.

It is not clear whether PTI chief Imran Khan — already besieged in his palatial Banigala residence — will attend the Supreme Court proceedings of Nov 1 though he has already announced about his intentions to go. He will be represented by a panel of lawyers namely Hamid Khan, Naeem Bukhari, Ahmed Awais, Dr Babar Awan and Chaudhry Faisal Hussain.

Already the government side had announced that it would not oppose or challenge the locus standi of the petitioners to demand judicial probe over the Panama Papers.

Advocate Asad Manzoor Butt will represent JI chief Sirajul Haq whereas Advocate Tariq Asad and Sheikh Rashid will appear in person before the court.

The court has already issued notices to the prime minister, his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif, his sons Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz, his son-in-law Mr Safdar, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Chairman of National Accountability Bureau Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, the Federal Investigation Agency, Election Commission of Pakistan, Federal Board of Revenue and secretaries of law, Parliamentary Affairs, Cabinet Division, Establishment Division and Information and Broadcasting.

Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2016

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