ISLAMABAD: Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif appeared before the Panama case Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on Saturday. Shehbaz Sharif is the fourth member of the Sharif family to appear before the JIT.
After his scheduled appearance, the Punjab chief minister spoke to the media outside the Federal Judicial Academy and told journalists that he had been summoned by the JIT to appear before them 'as someone acquainted with the facts of Panama case.
"I have recorded my statement," he told journalists before adding that "two days earlier the prime minister appeared before this JIT and it was for the first time that an elected prime minister appeared before a JIT to present his stance."
"Today perhaps this is for the first time in history that a chief minister has appeared before JIT," Shehbaz told journalists.
He told journalists that the prime minister's actions and his own clearly show the difference between how much respect the judiciary is given by military dictators and elected officials.
“I also have a history of back pain but did not use that as an excuse. I did not go and get admitted in Rawalpindi Medical Institute nor did I go to London. The apex court constituted the committee and I presented my stance before them."
The Punjab chief minister stressed before the media that this was not the first time the Sharif family was being held accountable. "This is the fifth time we have been called in for accountability, for which we have always been ready to present ourselves," he said. "But has any case of embezzlement surfaced against us in these five times."
However, Shehbaz added, the business of Sharif family have suffered during the tenure of Pakistan Peoples Party and General (retd) Pervez Musharraf.
The Punjab chief minister maintained that by appearing before the JIT, he and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif proved that they respect the judiciary.
The chief minister arrived at the Federal Judicial Academy at approximately 11am flanked by his son Hamza Shehbaz, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
Initially, when Shehbaz departed from the Punjab House he was riding in a white land cruiser driven by Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan which was followed by another black SUV.
However, when the vehicles arrived at the Federal Judicial Academy the chief minister was still riding in the white SUV but instead of Chaudhry Nisar, Hamza Shehbaz was in the driving seat.
According to sources, the vehicles stopped twice while en route to the Federal Judicial Academy and it was during these unscheduled stops that the seating arrangement was changed.
About 2,547 police officers were deployed along the route of the judicial academy.
With everyone's focus on the JIT, especially the opposition parties that led the charge against the Sharif family, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Jehangir Khan Tareen took to Twitter and shared his opinion that the Punjab chief minister was being quizzed by the JIT "due to his involvement in the Hudaybia money laundering scam."
In another tweet, he added, that one by one member's of the ruling Sharif family were being investigated. He added that he would be looking at Shehbaz Sharif's body language for leads as to how the JIT session went.
The JIT is probing the global money trail of the Sharif family in light of the Supreme Court’s April 20 judgment in the Panama Papers case.Earlier, a meeting was held at the Punjab House where the chief minister was advised by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders including Chaudhry Nisar prior to his appearance before the JIT.
The chief minister arrived in the federal capital on Friday evening and said the conspiracy elements are once again indulging in politics of lies.
“I don’t have time to respond to the opposition’s baseless allegations and will serve the people till my last breath,” said the Punjab chief minister.
Engaging in falsehood will not benefit their negative politics, he said, adding that people have never voted for those who level false allegations.
In a recent report to the court, the JIT had complained of ‘impediments’ in its investigation by several government departments.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appeared before the JIT to answer their queries.
After the session, he said that every penny earned by his family is accounted for, adding that these are assets related to his private family wealth and have nothing to do with public funds.
He also rejected all allegations of wrongdoing and corruption hurled by his opponents.
The JIT has summoned the premier’s elder son, Hussain Nawaz, five times and his younger son, Hassan, twice.
The Supreme Court began investigating the Sharif family late last year after the main political parties failed to agree on a committee to probe the Panama Papers leaks, and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan threatened mass protests and to ‘shut down Islamabad’.
The JIT — formed on May 6 — was given 60 days to complete its probe into the Sharif family’s international financial dealings and submit its report to the Supreme Court’s special implementation bench overseeing its proceedings.
The JIT team is headed by Federal Investigation Agency Additional Director Wajid Zia, and includes members from Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, State Bank of Pakistan and the National Accountability Bureau.