By Amir Mir
Report published in “The News” on 15th December 2011
As the Supreme Court of Pakistan has directed the National Accountability Bureau to prove that the Sharif brothers had left Pakistan under a clandestine deal in December 2000, the NAB is all set to furnish all available records.
It will include details of the alleged exile deal, the presidential pardon and remission of sentence and undertakings of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif.
NAB further intends to attach with its reply an August 23, 2007 judgment by a seven-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, stating: “the former prime minister’s release from prison and his journey to Saudi Arabia after getting a presidential pardon due to an undertaking could not be described as forced exile.”
A two-member bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain heard on December 13 the NAB plea against the Lahore High Court for releasing the confiscated assets of the Sharif brothers.
NAB’s prosecutor general KK Agha told the court that the Sharif brothers had left the country under a deal and had voluntarily surrendered their properties to the NAB. He said that after their return, the Sharifs filed an appeal before a division bench of Lahore High Court, contending that since the corruption cases against them had been disposed of, their properties should be released. The court consequently ordered the release of their properties on October 4, 2011 besides asking NAB to return property documents of the Sharif family, which were seized in 2001 to recover fine imposed on Nawaz Sharif in two cases.
As NAB challenged the LHC decision, the apex court has directed prosecutor general of the Bureau KK Agha to get copies of the exile deal from the federation and submit it to the court.
The NAB has subsequently decided not only to produce before the court the record of the exile deal and the pardon agreement but also the copies of an August 23, 2007 short order of the Supreme Court and a subsequent October 17, 2007 detailed judgment by the apex court in the same case to prove its contention that the Sharifs had left the country under a deal.
While announcing its detailed verdict against the forced expulsion of the Sharifs by the Musharraf regime in 2007, the apex court upheld their petition on the ground of Article 15 of the Constitution, which gives every citizen the right to enter or move freely throughout Pakistan.
In its October 17, 2007 detailed judgment, the apex court elaborated certain parts of its August 23, 2007 short order and observed that the former prime minister’s release from prison and his journey to Saudi Arabia after getting a pardon due to an undertaking could not be described as ‘forced exile’.
It, however, held that the Sharif brothers could return as no restraint can be placed on a Pakistani citizen to return to his country and the undertaking given by them had no constitutional legitimacy as such the petitioners can’t be prohibited from coming to Pakistan.
It may be recalled that the Musharraf regime had managed to send Nawaz Sharif back into exile in Saudi Arabia on September 10, 2007, hours after he had arrived in Islamabad from London.
But the apex court judgment gave detailed observations on the circumstances in which Nawaz Sharif and others gave an undertaking, resulting in remission/pardon in their jail term and subsequent journey to Saudi Arabia. The court order said: “In view of the chequered history of the case, the undertaking furnished by the petitioners cannot be ignored altogether on the basis whereof they had proceeded abroad.”
It said: “Had this undertaking not been in field, the position would have been different and sentence awarded in various cases would remain intact.”
The judgment said in such view of the matter, the journey to Saudi Arabia could not be termed as ‘forced exile’. It said the move was “never challenged for a couple of years as the petitioners were aware of the undertaking which culminated in their release from jail”.
The apex court verdict said: “Whatever terminology, i.e., deal, negotiation, mediation, third-party intervention, undertaking or agreement may be used, there is no denying the fact that the petitioners had proceeded abroad at their own.”
The Supreme Court had announced its verdict a day after the Musharraf regime had submitted [on August 22, 2007] the documents of the alleged deal made between the Sharif brothers and the Musharraf government, in line with the court orders passed on August 16, 2007. As per the contents of the exile deal produced before the apex court by then Attorney General of Pakistan Justice Malik Qayyum, the Sharif brothers had voluntarily agreed to live out of the country for ten years.
A copy of an undertaking seeking permission to proceed abroad by Nawaz Sharif and Shabaz Sharif was also filed in the apex court the same day which revealed that the Sharif brothers had left the country for 10 years on their own choice and agreed not to be engaged in any business or political activities or any other activities of any nature whatsoever against the interests of Pakistan.
Nawaz Sharif was quoted as saying in the exile agreement produced before the court: “I, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, accept the help by a personality for negotiation for the release from imprisonment in Pakistan. I am satisfied with this whole process of the negotiation. In the country where I would adopt residence, there I would not take part in any business or political activity and nor would take part for ten years in any politics, regarding imprisonment or against the interests of Pakistan. I will not proceed to another country without any permission of the country where I will reside for ten years outside Pakistan, and that I will come back in the same country. I will not tell anything to anybody about the personality and the country, through which the agreement has been made.”
Two separate but identical one-page “Confidentiality and Hold Harmless Agreements” carried the signatures of the Sharif brothers. There was no other signature on them. Sharifs pledged in these papers that they would not disclose the identity of “either the gentleman or the country involved in their release from Pakistan and relocation except with their prior written consent.”
During the hearing of the case, the attorney general was stopped by the Musharraf government from revealing the identity of the “gentleman” mentioned in the agreement who had arranged the agreement that let the Sharif family leave Pakistan in 2000. But in his book titled “In the Line of Fire”, General Pervez Musharraf has clearly stated that the deal was arranged by Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.
According to the pardon documents produced in the apex court by the Musharraf regime on August 22, 2007, it was on the basis of a four-page application signed by Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Abbas Sharif and Hussain Nawaz, that the then chief executive of Pakistan and chairman joint chief of staff and Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf advised then President Rafiq Tarar on December 9, 2000 to remit the sentences awarded to Nawaz Sharif under Article 45 of the Constitution, which he remitted.
Following is the text of the four-page application/petition signed by the Sharifs:
“To, The President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Dear Sir, That petitioner No 1 (Nawaz Sharif) along with others was tried for offences under sections 120B, 212, 121A, 123, 365, 402B, 109 and 324 of Pakistan Penal Code and section 6/7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 by the Anti-Terrorism Court No-1 Karachi.
The other co-accused of petitioner No. 1 were acquitted but petitioner No 1 was, by the judgment dated 6 April 2000 of the said court, convicted for offences under section 402 PPC read with Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 and sentenced as under.
Offence under Section 402B PPC. (i) Rigorous imprisonment for life. (ii) Fine of Rs5,00,000 (in case of non-payment of fine R.I of 5 years). (iii) Confiscation of entire property.
Offence under Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act. (i) Imprisonment for life. (ii) Fine of Rs5,00,000 (in case of non-payment of fine R.I for 5 years). (iii) To pay Rs29,00,000 as compensation to all passengers of flight PK-805 in equal shares.
That on appeal by petitioner No.1 against the judgment the court maintained conviction under Section 402B PPC read with Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and modified the sentences as under:- (i) Imprisonment for life. (ii) Fine of Rs5,00,000 (in case of non-payment of fine R.I for five years). (iii) Forfeiture of property (movable and immovable to the extent of the value of Rs500 million).
That on a reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau under the NAB Ordinance 1999, petitioner No 1 has been tried by Accountability Court Attock Fort and convicted for an offence under section 9(a)(v) of the NAB Ordinance and sentenced as under:- (i) R.I for 14 years. (ii) Fine of Rs2,00,00,000 (in case of non-payment of fine R.I for 3 years). (iii) Disqualification for 21 years for seeking or from being elected, chosen, appointed or nominated as member or representative of any public office or any statutory or local authority of the government of Pakistan.
That the petitioner No 1 has developed serious health problems. That certain inquiries and investigations against conduct of petitioner No. 1 and petitioners No 2 to 4 are pending with the investigating agencies and investigations may culminate into the petitioners’ prosecution.
In view of the above it is requested that the sentences of imprisonment of petitioner No 1 may be waived to enable him to proceed abroad for medical treatment and the petitioners may not be prosecuted in respect of any alleged past conduct.
(Signed) 9.12.2000. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif – petitioner No 1. (signed) Mian Shabaz Sharif – petitioner No. 2. (signed) Mian Abbas Sharif – petitioner No. 3. (signed) Hussain Nawaz – petitioner No. 4.”
On December 9, 2000, the then chief executive secretariat wrote to the president: “Subject: Grant of Pardon. In terms of Article 45 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan the president is advised to:- (a) Remit the sentence of imprisonment for life awarded to Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif by the High Court of Sindh in its judgment dated October 30, 2000 in Special Appeal No 43 of 2000 under Section 402B of the Pakistan Penal Code read with section 7(ii) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and (b) Remit the sentence of R.I for 14 years awarded to Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif by the Accountability Court Attock Fort in its judgment dated July 22, 2000 in reference No 2 of 2000 under Section 9(a)(v) of the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance 1999. (signed) Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of Pakistan and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff and Chief of Army Staff. December 9 2000.”
On this the-then president wrote, “approved. Sentences remitted. (signed).” The NAB is likely to reproduce all these documents before the apex court in the third week of January. However, Mian Nawaz Sharif, while talking to Geo News from Germany on August 22, 2007, (a day before the apex court announced its August 23, 2007 verdict) rejected all the deal documents produced in the court by the government as fake.
“General Musharraf is blackmailing and threatening us by presenting fake and fraud documents in the Supreme Court to keep us from returning to Pakistan”, claimed Nawaz Sharif while adding that he had not signed any agreement with Musharraf, his government or any government department.
“The entire government drama is meant to blackmail us and the entire nation. However, I do acknowledge that there was an understanding with the Saudi Arabian government at that time, but I can’t reveal that because it is a very sensitive issue,” Nawaz Sharif added.