ISLAMABAD  -  The matter of Rs1.2 billion Hudaibiya Paper Mills case against Sharif family after 18 years on Monday attained finality when the Supreme Court dismissed a review petition of National Accountability Bureau against the top court’s earlier judgment pertaining to reopening of the case.

The Hudaibiya Paper Mills was considered to be the mother of all corruption cases since its linkages with Avenfield flats in UK on possession of which former prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif was awarded 10 years rigorous imprisonment.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam, however, found no grounds made out of the plea of accountability watchdog for reviewing the earlier judgment. 

Legal experts believe that it was a classic case of corruption to be dealt with but Rs.1.2 billion have been unaccounted for due to negligence on the part of accountability watchdog and lacunas of prosecution side.

The same negligence has been observed by a three-judge bench hearing review petition when special prosecutor of NAB Imranul Haq could not substantiate how the crime was committed in the case despite bench’s repeated questions.

The matter prolonged 18 years due to different stances of NAB at different stages including applications of sine die adjournments by NAB and the applications for re-opening of the case.

Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel, member of the three-judge bench, told NAB’s prosecutor for how much time the Sword of Damocles will be hanging on the accused pointing out the matter initiated in 90s. 

Justice Qazi Faez Isa, another member of the bench, observed, “This was probably the first case where accused is not a reason for delay of one day and it was you so why we condone the delay.”

The accused persons had approached the Lahore High Court (LHC) for quashment of sine die Hudaibiya reference thereafter the high court had quashed the reference while NAB kept num and did not come into appeal till the adjudication and judgment on Panama case.

During the course of hearing Justice Isa enquired from NAB regarding a delay of more than 1000 days for not filing an appeal against the LHC judgment.

Haq contended before the bench that the top court’s January 5 judgement in the instant matter was in conflict with the Panama Papers case verdict issued by a larger bench and was, therefore, required to be reviewed.

Haq however argued that the accused in the corruption reference had never been indicted.

Justice Isa remarked that it was NAB’s own conduct adding: “you may delay the indictment for years if you wish.”

Haq contended that former finance minister Ishaq Dar was approver in the case but top court’s judgment has declared the statement illegal.

On this Justice Isa asked whether the law mentions that the statement will be before the magistrate. To this Haq responded in negation. To a query, Haq said that the nature of Dar’s statement is treated as statement of approver and that it is the best piece of evidence.

Justice Isa questioned whether it can be used against a third person adding that the pardon of Dar was not under the consideration of this court and the case under review was not against Dar.

“You are focusing Ishaq Dar. Where you established the crime even if we accept your contention?” Justice Isa questioned.

During the hearing, Justice Isa also expressed displeasure on the behaviour of NAB prosecutor who asked the bench to summon the record.

“Why we summon the record? You are representative of a state agency so behave like the one. This is not a proper conduct,” Justice Isa grilled NAB’s prosecutor while Justice Alam told the prosecutor that he should have brought the record along with him.

When NAB’s counsel referred opening of foreign currency accounts, the bench questioned whether it was crime to open foreign currency accounts.

During the hearing, Haq pleaded for expunging the observations in top court’s judgement’s paragraphs regarding former military ruler General (r) Pervez Musharraf and imposition of martial law.

“You are carrying someone’s battle,” Justice Isa told the NAB prosecutor questioning if he is the counsel for Musharraf or NAB further remarking whether these are not the facts. 

“Why this (paragraph) bothering you?” he further asked, observing that the apex court’s judgement had stated that Musharraf’s conduct had been hostile, and not that of NAB.

Justice Isa also asked the NAB prosecutor to read out the concerned para telling him to not be embarrassed about reading Pakistan’s history adding if NAB is interested in removing history of the country.

Justice Isa recalled that the NAB during the case had taken pleas that Musharraf was in power and accused persons were sent into exile due to which they could not be proceeded and told the prosecutor that judgment discussed this issue as these were the pleas. He asked the prosecutor if any case was lodged against Musharraf.

“Now rather filing case against him, you want expunging the observations,” Justice Isa further lambasted the prosecutor questioning if this aspect of review petition was also approved by the board. To this, prosecutor replied in affirmative.

“Why are you destroying your credibility? You are not Musharraf’s lawyer,” Justice Isa told the prosecutor while Justice Alam questioned if these observations have any effect on merits of the case.

Justice Isa remarked, “You can submit anything but it must be anchored with the facts,” adding that there is no direction either in minority or majority judgment.

“Our judgment is clear. Is it my job to translate it and make you understand? Your argument is self-destructing,” Justice Isa remarked while giving a good dressing down to the representative of accountability watchdog.

He further remarked that if the Panama case judgement on this aspect was self-executing then why NAB came into appeal, adding: “You through us seeking review of Panama judgement.”

You will go out and speak which is unbecoming, remarked Justice Isa noting that the 4 paras, regarding Mushrraf had nothing to do with the Bureau.

 

 

SC rejects NAB’s plea