ISLAMABAD: Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, may have heaved a sigh of relief after the verdict the apex court issued on Thursday in the Panama Papers case virtually cleared her from the allegations the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and other petitioners had leveled against her.
The Panama Papers leaks alleged that Maryam Nawaz was the beneficial owner of the London properties owned jointly by her brothers as well.
The petitions claimed that since Ms Maryam was a dependant of Mr Sharif, the prime minister had to declare the Mayfair properties/flats in the wealth statement.
The verdict, however, was of the view that Maryam Nawaz “has received cash gifts from her father in substantial amounts on various occasions… receipt of gifts from the father does not necessarily make Respondent No.6 (Maryam Nawaz) his (Nawaz Sharif) dependent in the legal sense of the word”.
The bench stated in the verdict that “we also notice that Respondent No.6 owns substantial agricultural property, receives income from the same, holds shares in limited companies worth more than Rs200 million and her husband also receives a fair amount of money by way of pension as a retired military officer. He also receives salary/allowances in his capacity as a member of the National Assembly”.
In response to the arguments that Maryam lives in the Sharif’s family house, the verdict says: “The mere fact that she has chosen to live in a compound owned by her grandmother does not ipso facto make her a dependent of Respondent No.1 (Nawaz Sharif) either.”
The verdict further noted that Maryam “contributes a substantial sum of money towards her share in the joint expenses incurred by her grandmother on behalf of other members of the Sharif family residing in the compound”.
Subsequently, the bench declared, “in this context, whether or not Respondent No.6 is the beneficial owner of the Mayfair Properties becomes irrelevant at this stage, seen from the point of view of seeking disqualification of Respondent No.1 on the ground that he has failed to disclose the assets of a dependent’’.
Even otherwise, the issue of dependency is a question of fact to be determined on a case-to-case basis after recording evidence. ‘‘We are not persuaded to undertake the said exercise, for this purpose, while exercising jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution,’’ it added.
The bench concluded that in these proceedings sufficient material was not available on the record to establish that Maryam Nawaz was a dependant of Nawaz Sharif, in a legal sense. ‘‘We do not feel the necessity to discuss this aspect of the case any further, lest it should prejudice the case of either party before a competent forum if and when this issue is agitated,’’ it said.
In the operating part of the judgement, the bench constituted a joint investigation team comprising representatives of the Federal Investigation Agency, National Accountability Bureau, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, State Bank of Pakistan, Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence.
The court asked the proposed JIT to investigate allegations levelled against Nawaz Sharif and his sons Hassan and Hussain by the petitioners.
A senior lawyer and former deputy attorney general Tariq Jahangiri says that Maryam Nawaz has been cleared for the time being, but in case the JIT finds some tangible evidence against her she may face the proceedings as well.