Panama verdict: SC accepts Sharifs plea for larger bench

Pakistan’s Supreme Court said on Tuesday that a five-judge bench will be formed to hear the review petitions of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his children, son-in-law and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar against the July 28 Panama Papers case verdict.

A three-member bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan after hearing the arguments of Salman Akram Raja, counsel for Nawaz Sharif’s children, and Khawaja Haris, counsel for Sharif, sent the matter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Saqib Nisar.

Raja said the plea for the formation of a five-judge bench was filed because the last decision (July 28) was passed by a five-judge bench, Geo News reported.

Sharif’s daughter Maryam, sons Hussain and Hassan, and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar, moved an application in the apex court on Monday urging that their review pleas be heard by a five-member bench, instead of the three-member bench, and that the hearing be delayed till the formation of the five-member bench.

The children of the former Premier reminded the court that they had filed two separate review petitions — one against the decision of the five-member Panama case bench and the other against the decision of the three-member implementation bench, and thus the application against the decision of the five-member bench should be heard first, the report said.

On August 25, Nawaz’s children and son-in-law also challenged the apex court’s July 28 verdict. The petition claimed that there was no accusation or evidence against the former Prime Minister’s son-in-law, regarding the purchase of the Sharifs’ London properties but still the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was ordered to file a reference against him.

It further said that the posting of a monitoring judge to oversee the implementation of the verdict was against the law, explaining that the accountability court cannot operate independently after the appointment of an implementation judge.

The petitioners claimed that their basic rights were infringed upon as their objections to the JIT’s final probe report were not taken into consideration. It also stated that the JIT investigation was incomplete and cannot be used as a basis for filing a NAB reference.

On July 28, a five-member bench of the Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from office following a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probe that exposed illegal family wealth stashed away abroad.

In the verdict, all judges ruled to send references against Sharif, his children, son-in-law and Dar to an accountability court.