ISLAMABAD: A presidential reference filed against Supreme Court judge, Justice Qazi Faez Isa — for allegedly not disclosing his properties in London in wealth returns — was quashed by the apex court on Friday.
The case was wrapped up after Justice Isa’s spouse provided the money trail pertaining to her foreign properties and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) provided its input on the matter.
The petitioner’s lawyer, Munir A Malik, concluded his arguments in court by saying that the federation had “gotten on the wrong bus” in the case.
The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) had initiated the proceedings against Justice Isa on allegations that he purchased three properties in London in the name of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015 — but did not allegedly disclose them in wealth returns declared in Pakistan.
Malik urged the court to dismiss the reference against the judge. He said that a website had been used to search for properties in London. The lawyer told the court that if one wanted to search properties in London, he/she had to pay for the privilege.
He said that the website sends a payment receipt to the relevant person who uses it to search for properties, via email. He said that British-Pakistani lawyer Zia ul Mustafa, who had searched for Justice Isa’s alleged assets, had received three copies of the high commission’s verified properties.
“Copies of politicians’ properties searched were attached as well [in documents submitted],” he said. “If the government provides receipts as well then it will be revealed as to who searched for the properties,” he added.
Malik said that if the search for the properties was conducted by the Asset Recovery Unit, then it should provide receipts. He said that it seemed as if the ARU had only facilitated the search.
“The government only wants to remove the author of the Faizabad dharna case,” noted Malik.
Justice Isa’s wife submits money trail
The spouse of Justice Qazi Faez Isa on Thursday gave the money trail for purchasing three properties in United Kingdom (UK), saying that 700,000 sterling pounds had been transferred from her personal account through a private bank in Karachi.
A 10-member full court, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, had resumed hearing in a set of petitions, challenging the presidential reference, filed against Justice Qazi Faez Isa for allegedly not disclosing his foreign properties in his wealth returns.
Zarina Montserrat Khoso Carrera, the wife of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, recorded her statement via video link before the court and submitted that details pertaining to her accounts were available with the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
The court, while expressing satisfaction over the statement of spouse of Justice Isa, asked her that in order to examine the matter on merit, she would have to approach the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) or the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), and a decision in that regard would be given by the tax authorities.
Justice Isa had informed the Supreme Court the other day that his wife was willing to explain before the apex court through video link about the three properties acquired in United Kingdom (UK).
Recording her statement, the lady thanked the apex court for providing her with such an opportunity. “I am very much nervous as this is my first experience before the court, but I will try my best to follow your instructions,” Zarina said, adding that it has been a critical time for her as her father was near to death these day.
She said that she was married to Justice Qazi Faez Isa in the year 1982, and also showed her birth certificate and the old National Identity Card, saying her name was Zarina, adding that she did not know that she would buy properties in London after 21 years of marriage.
She submitted that she got her computerized identity card in the year 2003 and her name remained the same, adding that at that time her husband was not a judge. She said that she was entitled to Spanish passport, as her mother was Spanish and therefore she has a Spanish passport.
She said that when her visa expired, she applied for a fresh visa. When she got it, her husband was not a judge, but a lawyer. “So the allegation that I used the office of my husband for acquiring the visa was baseless,” Zarina Isa contended.
She stated that in the year 2020, she was granted visa only for one year and prior to that she was harassed and that’s why she was granted visa for a very limited period of time. She said that she bought the first property in the year 2004 in United Kingdom, adding that she was employed at an American School in Karachi and at that time, one Rehan Naqvi used to deal with her tax matters.
The spouse of Justice Isa showed the court the certificate issued by the tax authorities as she was filing her tax returns, adding that when her tax record was transferred from Karachi to Islamabad, she asked the FBR in that regard; however, she alleged that the FBR did not reply to her request.
She said that she had agricultural lands which were in Jaccobabad (Sindh) and Dera Murad Jamali (Balochistan) while her father used to look after the land while the government was well aware of all that.
She said that Rehan Naqvi had advised her to open foreign account, which she did and through that account, she transferred the money abroad for purchasing the properties. At this, she showed the court the record of her foreign currency account, saying she had to face great difficulties in seeking its details as, she added, the bank didn’t maintain 10-year old account.
The spouse of Justice Isa submitted that from 2003 to 2013, the whole amount was transferred from these accounts to London for purchasing these properties, adding that the money was transferred in her name and from her account as well.
She said that she bought one property for 236,000 sterling pounds, adding that she transferred 700,000 sterling pounds through a private bank for purchasing the properties. “All documents which I have shown are genuine and authentic and the London Bank Account is also in her name,” Zarina Isa added.
She said that another property was purchased in 2013 for 245,000 sterling pounds and in that flat, her son was living, while another property, which was in her and her daughter’s names was purchased for 270,000 sterling pounds. She said that now she was filing tax returns both in the UK and Pakistan, adding that she had already filed tax returns of London properties in the year 2018.
Meanwhile, Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked Mrs Isa that they had no jurisdiction to hear the matter on merit. However, he expressed satisfaction over her statement, and advised her that right now there were two relevant forums available to her: one was the FBR and the second was the SJC.
The judge advised her to present her all documentary proofs to those forums as those were competent to decide her case. “We felt that you have sufficient documents to present and I am sure that you will be heard properly; therefore, I wish you present these documents before the relevant forums,” Justice Bandial told the lady.
“Why I was not asked earlier and I waited for 13 months while my son was subjected to harassment in London,” Zarina Isa questioned. She said that she was not asking for any privilege, but she should be treated as an ordinary citizen in Pakistan.
Justice Bandial, however, said that she would be treated with respect and dignity, adding that she was a brave lady and hoped that she would be able to address her matter effectively.
“I must tell you one thing, we, as judges, are answerable for our actions in private and public life; therefore, we are much more accountable than other people, as we are holding other people accountable,” Bandial told Justice Isa’s wife. “This not the trial of your husband and yours as well, but the trial of our institution,” Justice Bandial added.
When the spouse of Justice Isa continued, Justice Bandial called Munir A Malik, counsel for Justice Qazi Faez Isa to rostrum, who then asked Zarina to sign out. Justice Maqbool Baqar remarked that what was going on in the country in the name of accountability would also be looked into. He said destruction (of institutions) was under way in the country in the name of accountability and they would write (in the verdict) on it also.
Justice Baqar asked if the Supreme Justice Council (SJC) could review the performance of the president. To which, the federation’s lawyer, Farogh Naseem, said that it (Council) has the authority to review anyone’s performance.
Later, the court directed Barrister Farogh Naseem to submit before it in sealed envelop the record of 2018 tax returns, filed by Mrs Isa. Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked Farogh Naseem that the lady had also complained about the FBR attitude, to which the counsel for the federation submitted that if the complaint was proved true, it could be directly lodged with the prime minister.
Meanwhile, Farogh Naseem submitted before the court that Khalid Ranjha, Irfan Qadir, Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Aamir Rehman, and Sohail Mahmood, who were to represent president, prime minister, as well as other respondents, have adopted his arguments; hence they will not be arguing before the court. At this, the court adjourned the hearing for Friday (today) wherein Munir A Malik, counsel for Justice Qazi Faez Isa, will argue in rebuttal.