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.

Imran should have joined us in Rawalpindi on Oct 28, says Shaikh Rashid

Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Shaikh Rashid Tuesday said that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan should have joined his protest in Rawalpindi on Oct 28.

Talking to reporters outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad, he said that he does not “complain during war times” but the PTI chief should have joined his party in Rawalpindi “at any cost”.

“We want to get rid of Nawaz Sharif at any cost,” he said.

“Now the army need to decide if they are with Erdogan or with people,” he said, apparently referring to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as the Turkish president. In reply to a question, he made it clear that he was not inviting the army.

“Yes Musharraf was a dictator but he was better than these thieves.”

“We will not spare the prime minister and will follow him like a stinger or silkworm missile until and unless he is sacked from his office,” he added.

Four officers likely to be called back from India

ISLAMABAD: The government is considering pulling out from India four of its officers posted in Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi, days after Indian authorities declared one official persona non grata.

“This is under consideration. A final decision would be taken shortly,” a source at the Foreign Office said on Monday.

The names of the officers — commercial counsellor Syed Furrukh Habib and first secretaries Khadim Huss­ain, Mudassir Cheema and Shahid Iqbal — were made public after Indian officials released to media a recorded statement of a high commission staffer Mehm­ood Akhtar, who was expelled from India after being declared persona non grata.

Mr Akhtar told Dawn that he had given the statement under duress.

“They took me to a police station after detaining me where I was forced to read out a written statement provided by them in which the names of the four officers were given and was told to state that they belonged to Pakistan’s intelligence services,” the former high commission official, who returned to Islamabad last week, said.

Mr Akhtar narrated how he was manhandled and picked from outside a zoo while on his way back from Nizamuddin shrine and taken to a Delhi police station, where he was coerced into recording a statement before being expelled from the country.

Indian officials, he said, tortured him to extract the statement and threatened to inject him with heart attack inducing injection if he refused to comply.

The incident has jeopardised the security of the officers and their families besides restricting the normal diplomatic functioning of the high commission.

Pakistan and India have in the past expelled each other’s diplomats and officials due to their tense relationship, but it is one of those rare occasions where one of the countries took the extreme step of revealing the identities of officers.

Pakistani officials believe that India did this on purpose to heighten the tensions.

“We consider it as a serious breach of diplomatic norms. The Indian move has complicated the already tense situation and threatened the lives of our diplomatic staff,” an officer said, adding it was a “deliberate and provocative action”.

Talking about the difficulties being faced by high commission staff, the officer said a son of one of the officers had to be taken back from school after he was ridiculed by his class fellows following this disclosure.

He said public attitude towards high commission staff had stiffened.

One of the family members of the staff earlier talking over the phone to Dawn criticised the Pakistan government for “not proactively and forcefully” responding to the threats to their safety. “It is a matter of life and death for us, but the government’s response has been too meek,” the family member said.

First trade activity under CPEC kicks off

GILGIT: Pakistan and China kicked off first trade activities under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project (CPEC) on Monday as over a hundred Chinese containers arrived at the Sust port after clearance from customs and an inaugural ceremony was held at the port a day earlier. Sust is a village in Hunza. It’s the last town in Pakistan on the Karakoram highway before the Chinese border.

The containers left for Gwadar after custom clearance.

The ceremony was attended by Chinese officials as well as Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman and the Force Commander of Gilgit-Baltistan, Saqib Mahmud Malik.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony, Mr Rehman said that under the CPEC the fate of GB would change, adding that one thousand Chinese containers would pass through the Karakoram highway in Gilgit-Baltistan every week. “This activity will bring prosperity and end unemployment in the region,’’ the chief minister said.

He said that it was an important day for both Chinese and Pakistani people since trade activity under the CPEC had officially started.

“The federal government has approved projects worth Rs72 billion in the region to provide GB with modern technology. The Shuntar pass, Babusar road and Gilgit-Skardu road would also be constructed under the CPEC,’’ Mr Rehman said.

Police personnel were posted on the containers as part of security measures for the CPEC.

Talking to Dawn, the customs superintendent at the Sust port, Ishaq Kiani, said containers loaded with CPEC projects goods were exempted from paying import tax. “Forty-five Chinese containers have departed from Sust and the remaining would leave after clearance,’’ he said.