SC Justice Asif Saeed refuses to hear Hudaibiya Paper Mills case

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Justice Khosa said the registrar should not have presented the case in front of the bench.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) will begin hearing a petition by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for reopening the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case today.

The NAB through its Prosecutor General Waqas Qadeer Dar had filed the appeal, pleading the top court to grant leave to appeal to examine the legality, propriety and vires of the 2014 LHC verdict quashing the Hudaibya Paper Mills case and set aside the impugned judgement. Justice Khosa is the judge who gave a verdict of 14 paragraphs regarding Hudaibiya Paper Mills in the Panama Papers. Justice Khosa however said that constitution of the new bench and fixation of the date for hearing was the prerogative of the Chief Justice of the supreme court. Justice Khosa, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, was heading a five-member larger bench of the apex court that gave a historic verdict on July 28 in the Panama Papers case, disqualifying Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for being dishonest while failing to disclose his un-withdrawn salary as chairman of the UAE-based offshore company Capital FZE. NAB has filed a separate application asking the apex court to condone the delay in filing the appeal. If the SC accepts NAB's plea to reopen the case, it would put Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, their mother Shamim Akhtar, Maryam Safdar, Hussain Nawaz and Hamza Shahbaz in the dock when other corruption references against majority are already in motion in the accountability courts. In its petition, NAB has argued that fresh material unearthed by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) set up by the SC to investigate the Panama case necessitated reopening the Hudaibiya reference before the relevant accountability court. The matter was referred to a referee judge, who held that a reinvestigation was not permissible because it would mean providing NAB another opportunity to shore up the lacunas in their case to victimise the Sharifs.

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According to the Hudaibya reference, the Sharif family had been accused of setting up Hudaibya Paper Mills Ltd to launder money.

Dar had claimed that he had made the "confession" in duress and disowned the statement.

The Sharif family had earlier chose to challenge the bench of the Apex court formed for hearing the NAB appeal seeking reopening of the Hudaibiya papers mills reference.

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Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who is a close aide and relative of the Sharifs, had given a confessional statement before a magistrate, alleging that Sharif brothers used the Hudaibya Paper Mills as cover for money laundering during the late 1990s.

The quashment did not acquit Mr Dar, nor did it eliminate the possibility of his trial over the charges at any subsequent stage, the judge recalled, adding that once the reference was thrown out, the pardon granted to him by the NAB chairman ceased to hold the field.

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