June 15, 2017 |

Abig question surrounding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s appearance today before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is whether he will draw on documents that have been tampered with?

Only a day earlier, the JIT brought to the notice of the Supreme Court the institutional impediments that it said were being raised to obstruct investigation. Not only have some government departments gone into a non-cooperative mode, some records related to the Panamagate case were being tampered with, the JIT report to the apex court said.

The JIT’s CMA (civil miscellaneous application) in fact prompted Justice Ijazul Ahsan into resonating JIT’s complaint that certain institutions were changing and tampering with the record. “Even forgery has been carried out,” he observed.

Addressing Additional Attorney General Waqar Rana, another judge, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, warned of “far-reaching consequences in case of forgery”. The JIT has refrained from naming persons or institutions but those familiar with the investigations back in the 1990s of the Sharifs’ asset believe the JIT made a veiled reference to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which during General Musharraf’s tenure conducted exhaustive inquiries into the family accounts.

Even before Musharraf, Rehman Malik, PPP’s home minister and ex-FIA chief, had made similar inquiries in the early 1990s.

Based on conversations with NAB officials late Tuesday evening before and after Iftar dinners, one can assume that this anti-corruption watchdog has been working overtime to “set things right” ahead of Sharif’s deposition before the JIT. For understandable reasons these officials cannot be named.

If the JIT application and the court proceedings on Monday were any indicator, battle-lines have been drawn between the Supreme Court and the Sharif family. If what has played out in the court so far is real/serious stuff – particularly in view of the critical, if not derogatory, public remarks by PML-N leaders about the conduct of the JIT members – then one can assume that days ahead promise two things; first the Supreme Court-sanctioned JIT will become more vociferous in finding answers to questions regarding the London flats, second, the PML-N-led chorus of criticism of the JIT, too, will grow louder and the Sharif cohorts would attempt to make the investigation ever more controversial.

The big question facing the JIT now is: will it summon NAB big shots and ask them about the tampering of records? Will it be able to survive the noise being raised by the PML-N and reach conclusions that could, on the one hand, redefine and raise the bar of the rule of law in Pakistan… and, on the other, reinstate the public trust in the impartiality and wisdom of the apex court?

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