Deciphering Panama Petition
In April 2016, a huge leak of documents named as “Panama Papers” were released detailing the off-shore accounts of various politicians, military personnel etc. around the Globe. The Panama Papers caused a storm of “breaking news” and Pakistan was one of the States where it had a great impact as it was alleged that Prime Minister of Pakistan is amongst the one holding an off-shore company. But the factual position is that it does not include the name of Prime Minister but his independent family members. The Panama Papers not only included Prime Minister’s family’s name but also ex-army officials, judges and many others, but as we know sword of scrutiny is always held first on politicians so the issue got maximum coverage in the media and news-paper all around Pakistan. PTI (as always) took the matter to the streets but later the Apex Court intervened and the petition was filed under Article 184(3) of The Constitution of Pakistan, 1973. Nevertheless, the petition has been finally heard and adjudicated upon by The Court and the judgement has been reserved.
It is pertinent to mention here that the petitioners came before the Court of Law seeking disqualification of the Respondent no 1 Prime Minister on account of “off-shore Companies”. However, the fact remains that the petitioner himself had an off-shore company and if reliance is based on “leaked documents” and “news-papers” then this brings petitioner’s own character in question. It is an established principle of law that, when a person invokes the Court on a specific matter then he must not approach it with dirty hands. Maxim of Equity provides that: “He who comes into equity must come with clean hands.” Thus, the question is whether the petitioner approached the Court with clean hands? Not only that the petitioner’s counsel relied on “Raymond Baker’s Book” and a number of Television interviews as an evidence, now the question is whether these are admissible in the Court of Law to disqualify the Prime Minister? Qanun-e- Shahadat Order 1984, in no way provides that the newspapers are admissible evidence unless they are corroborated by witnesses. Reliance in this regard can be made to the Peshawar High Court’s judgement: “……The news item without any further proof of what had actually happened through witnesses is of no value. It is well known that reporters collected the news and information and passed it on to the editor who edited the news item and then published it, and there is every probability that in process the truth may be perverted or garbled.” (Peshawar High Court 2013 MLD 1449).
In the petition, the petitioner’s seek that the incumbent Prime Minister be disqualified just like Yousaf Raza Gillani (former Prime Minister of Pakistan) was disqualified on “covering mega corruption.” Now if one look into the background of that case it is revealed that Contempt of Court proceedings were initiated against Gillani as he was not following Court’s direction to write a letter to Swiss authorities. After, the proceedings, he was found guilty of the Contempt and was given a sentence “till the rising of the Court”, which made him “Convicted”. Thus, this attracted the provisions of Article 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 and he was de-seated. However, the present case is totally different and the disqualification prayed in the petition is base-less as:
Panama papers did not contain Prime Minister’s name but his son, so can he be disqualified on his son’s account? Not to mention that, off-shore companies are not illegal.
Secondly the petitioner’s claim disqualification on the ground that Maryam Nawaz was PM’s dependent and she also holds an interest in her brother’s company. This has been rebutted from the fact she is not her father’s dependent in any way but has her own property and is a tax payer.
Thirdly, the contention made by petitioner is that the PM lied on the floor of the house and is thus not Sadiq or Ameen. Now the question is which authority had undertaken a “factual inquiry” in this regard and does it not come under the umbrella of privileges assigned to members of Parliament under Article 69 of the Constitution?
Lahore High Court in its judgement provided that: “….. Constitution provided certain privileges and immunities to the members and proceedings of Parliament, which could not be inquired into by the Court…..” (2014 PLD 670) Keeping in view this judgement and the time duration which had elapsed since the buying/selling of flats and steel mills, can it not be said that he unintentionally missed a minor detail? Without any proof of money laundering is it enough to DE-SEAT THE ELECTED PRIME MINISTER OF THE STATE?
Another thing to mention here is that the petitioner in his prayer has asked for the disqualification from the Apex Court and had sought directions for NAB, FBR regarding tax evasion and money laundering. Ironic is that all other institutions are mentioned in the petition but the authority on election matters is not even called as Election Commission of Pakistan is the authority where eligibility should be challenged. This shows that petitioner is seeking disqualification as it is favoring his political agenda and not in the interest of public.
The whole country awaits the Supreme Court’s Verdict on Panama issue but it should be kept in mind that Pakistan has a principle of separation of powers and it is the task of legislature, executive and the Judiciary to work in their ambit. The Court decision should not mirror that it is stepping into the shoes of the Executive instead it should devolved the matter to the authorities competent to entertain these matters.
About The Author:
Tanees Fatima is a lawyer and currently studying LLM.
She tweets with handle @FatimaTanees