Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday alleged once again that three members of the joint investigation team (JIT) formed to probe his family’s business dealings abroad were “are our worst political opponents”, and expressed fears that Adiala Jail was already being prepared for him.
Sharif, along with his daughter Maryam, made the remarks after appearing before an accountability court in Islamabad in a reference concerning his family’s Avenfield properties.
“Bit by bit, the reality of the JIT’s investigative report is being revealed,” he said in his customary talk with the media after the court’s proceedings.
“You know that the facts that went in our favour were [deliberately] hidden by the JIT,” he alleged. “You already know what has come out of Wajid Zia’s mouth and, in a way, he has given us a certificate [of innocence],” he further claimed.
Though the Sharif family has kept up a narrative that Zia, the prosecution’s star witness and head of the JIT, has considerably weakened the case by failing to hold up to cross questioning, the PML-N’s political opponents say the court’s proceedings have been misconstrued by the PML-N to present a distorted picture to give Nawaz’s supporters false hopes.
“A new truth has come to light today,” Sharif said today before alleging that of the six members of the JIT, “three are our worst political opponents. They, or their wives or [other] family members are active members of the PTI,” he claimed.
He chose to exclude the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) representative, Irfan Naeem Mangi, from his list, choosing to stick to criticism of the intelligence agencies’ representatives on the team.
“My case was not a terrorism case. I was doing nothing against the interests of Pakistan. What was the need to include the ISI and MI in the JIT?” he asked.
Khawaja Haris concludes Wajid Zia’s cross-examination
Earlier, Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Haris had completed his cross-examination of JIT head Wajid Zia in the Avenfield refence, ten days after he began examining the witness.
Maryam Nawaz’s counsel, Amjad Parvez, has now taken over from him.
During the examination, Zia had said that the team did not maintain a daily diary of its proceedings as it had been ordered by the Supreme Court to submit a report every 15 days.
He further stated that the JIT had not been conducting a criminal investigation but had the powers to conduct an investigation according to the Criminal Procedures Code (CrPC), the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 and under the powers given to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
He revealed that while confidential matters were reviewed only by JIT members, the JIT secretariat had a staff of between 30 and 40 people. This included security guards, record typists and cook.
The JIT also took assistance from 30-40 experts who have not been named in the JIT report as the Supreme Court had been requested to keep their names secret. The apex court had not issued any order regarding this, but their names were not revealed in the report, Zia said.
Zia also elaborated on his professional life, informing that he had joined the public service in 1988 as an assistant superintendent police (ASP). He said that he remained associated with criminal investigations throughout his career.
Earlier, when asked by Haris about whether he knew about JIT member Bilal Rasool being a relative of PML-Q founder and current PTI leader Mian Azhar, Zia replied in the affirmative. But he said he could not say for sure whether Rasool’s wife was appointed as a lawmaker on a special seat by PML-Q or comment on her active association with the PTI.
He also said that he was aware of procedural actions ongoing against Irfan Naeem Mangi, but said he did not know of a committee investigating him on the orders of the Supreme Court.
He said he was unaware of Brigadier Nauman Masood being a source employee of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
He also said it was incorrect to say that the JIT conducted the investigations against the Sharif family in a biased way or with a specific agenda in mind.
‘Do they already know if someone will be coming to Adiala Jail?’
Sharif today also spoke on recent political developments, including a number of defections from the PML-N.
“Those who have been with us for generations will not change their loyalties,” he said. “People will not vote for those who change their loyalties.”
Addressing renewed concerns about the lack of development in south Punjab after PML-N defectors announced they would begin a movement for a new province in the area, Sharif chose to appreciate the work done in the region under his brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s leadership.
More importantly, he engaged with rumours of preparations being made in the infamous Adiala Jail for the arrival of important political personalities.
“House cleaning has already begun in Adiala Jail. Do they know in advance that somebody is coming?” he asked.
He also said that he does not want NAB to influence the upcoming general elections by pressurising candidates before elections. Informal consultations regarding making the body ineffective during the caretaker setup have taken place with the prime minister’s involvement, he revealed
The accountability references against Sharifs — now in their final stages — had been filed on the orders of the Supreme Court as a continuation of the Panamagate affair. The Panama Papers case had earlier resulted in the disqualification of Sharif for holding an undeclared work permit from the UAE. He has since stepped up his criticism of the judiciary, as well as the JIT whose report led to his ouster.