–Sharifs’ lawyer says JIT’s observations in its report cannot be made part of the case
ISLAMABAD: The accountability court on Thursday rejected a plea filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for inclusion of Panama gate Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report as a part of the Avenfield case record.
The request was made by Federal Investigation Agency Additional Director and Panama JIT head Wajid Zia after he appeared in court to record his statement against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family during Thursday’s hearing.
As Zia appeared in court with the JIT report, he narrated the work of the JIT, which had recorded the statements of the Nawaz family and several other persons associated with the Panama Papers case.
Maryam and Safdar’s counsel, Amjad Pervez, then began cross-examining Zia. Pervez contended that the JIT’s observations in its report cannot be made part of the case.
“Nothing of the JIT report can be exhibited by the witness. Zia was the investigation officer of the JIT team. The witness can only produce as evidence what he himself has stated or found,” argued Parvez.
“How can Zia produce the investigation report as evidence in the court of the trial? The opinion of the JIT cannot be exhibited as evidence here. The statements of witnesses and accused cannot be produced here as evidence,” he further questioned, adding that the only admissible evidence is what Zia himself collected.
“Under what law can this investigation report be produced as evidence?” he argued.
NAB’s prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said that the witness conducted the investigation as per the Supreme Court’s directions and that it can be produced in court as evidence. Zia sought permission from the court to speak, and said, “each and every volume is connected and one can only comprehend it when produced completely and all together.”
Parvez then referred to multiple judgements including one of 1958, the JIT head sent Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) letter of help, and thus, he can only produce that in court, but what witness or accused said in front of the JIT during the investigation cannot be produced.
At this, Abbasi said that if the NAB would have conducted the investigation and the report, then the defence counsel could have raised this objection.
“Zia is appearing as a witness, not the Investigation Officer,” Abbasi argued. “This is a special case, the witness has compiled the report and it can be exhibited.”
In response, Parvez said, “Each volume of the report contains a section called “summary of investigation” and it carries the JIT’s opinion. Guilty or not guilty is the prerogative of the court and not the JIT.” He further added that the SC itself always refers to the report as an investigation.
The prosecutor then pleaded with the judge to include the JIT report into the case record.
The defence lawyer opposed the plea and maintained that a summary couldn’t be made a part of ongoing proceedings as evidence.
The hearing was then adjourned until March 15, when Zia will continue recording his statement.
Earlier on during Thursday’s hearing, Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam were exempted from appearing before the accountability court conducting corruption proceedings against the Sharif family.
As Judge Mohammad Bashir began proceedings of the Avenfield case, Nawaz and Maryam asked to be exempted from appearance owing to the former premier’s ill health. The court while accepting their request directed Nawaz’s son-in-law Captain (r) Safdar to remain present in court.