ISLAMABAD: Upholding the long practiced judicial tradition, known as judicial propriety, Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa recused himself from a three-member Supreme Court bench, being its head, which took up the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case against the Sharif family on Monday.
The bench constituted by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Friday also consisted of Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Mazhar Alam Minakhel.
When the bench took up the case, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa announced to recuse himself from the bench, saying that since he had already spoken his mind in detail on the Hudaibiya case in the Panama Papers case verdict, it was not appropriate for him to adjudicate upon the matter.
He assumed that it could be the mistake of the SC Registrar Office that the case was fixed before him, as he had already written 14 paragraphs on Hudaibiya case in the April 20, 2017, verdict in the Panama Papers case.
According to a legal expert, Justice Khosa’s assumption was contrary to the fact, as all such high-profile cases are fixed before the benches by the CJP.
Justice Khosa recalled that he had directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the Panama case verdict to reopen the Hudaibiya case. He observed that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was an accused in the Hudaibiya case, however later he turned an ‘approver’ and ultimately got pardoned.
He said now when the previous verdict in the case given by the Lahore High Court (LHC) had turned impugned and the case was going to be declared as void, Dar’s status as ‘approver’ would also end and he would be treated as an accused.
During the brief hearing, NAB’s prosecutor, who appeared on notice, requested the court to take up the case next week after constitution of a new bench. After dissolution of the bench, the CJP will now constitute another bench to hear the case. Justice Khosa had headed the five-member Supreme Court bench, which heard the Panama Papers case and disqualified Nawaz Sharif as prime minister in its July 28, 2017, verdict, besides directing NAB to reopen Hudaibiya Paper Mills case against the Sharif family.
The NAB in its appeal to the apex court seeking reopening of Hudaibiya Paper Mills case, which was closed by the LHC in 2014, has named Nawaz Sharif, his brother Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, their deceased brother Abbas Sharif and five other family members as respondents.
According to a senior official of NAB and legal experts, reopening of Hudaibiya Paper Mills case would create more troubles for the Sharif family and Ishaq Dar, who are already in troubled waters facing graft references in the accountability court, particularly Shehbaz Sharif, who was being named as PML-N’s next candidate for the office of prime minister.
In its July 28, 2017, verdict in the Panama Papers case, the court had directed NAB to reopen Hudaibiya Paper Mills case. However, when it did not open the case, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, chief of Awami Muslim League, moved the apex court seeking its direction to the NAB to reopen the case.
The NAB then filed an appeal in the Supreme Court on September 20, 2017, against the Lahore High Court (LHC) decision, which quashed the case on March 11, 2014, and acquitted all the accused, including Nawaz Sharif.
The NAB has appealed to the apex court to declare the LHC verdict null and void in the interest of justice, fair play and equity. It argued in the appeal that the referee judge was not ‘competent’ to set aside the findings of the high court, in which the NAB had been allowed to reinitiate investigations against the Sharif family.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the Supreme Court to probe the Panama Papers case against Nawaz Sharif had recommended in its final report that Hudaibiya Paper Mills case should be reopened.
Published in Daily Times, November 14th 2017.