Justice Khosa recuses himself from Hudaibiya Paper Mills reopening hearing

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The Supreme Court bench established for hearing of Hudaibiya Paper Mills case has been dissolved as Justice Saeed Ahmad Khosa excused himself from hearing the case. As the hearing began, Justice Khosa remarked that the case has been put in front of him due to the office mistake as he had already given verdict in the Panama Papers case. The court sent the matter to Chief Justice of Pakistan to form a new bench to hear the case.

Awami Muslim League (AML) Chief Sheikh Rasheed had submitted a petition in SC, stating that on July 21, amid hearing of the Panama Papers case, NAB had assured the court to submit reply in seven days on Hudaibiya case but it failed to do so within the mentioned time.

He observed further that he had written 14 paras on the Hudaibiya case in the April 20 judgment of the Panama case, adding that he had observed that NAB should reopen the case.

NAB had requested the apex court to examine the legality, propriety and vires of the impugned judgment of March 11, 2014 and hence may be set aside in the interests of justice, fair play and equity, adding that the impugned judgment is not passed in consonance with the dictums laid down by the apex court.

The NAB pleaded with the court to set the hearing next week. However the lawyers of the Sharif family did not file the application following Justice Khosa's inability to head the bench.

On September 20, NAB filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the LHC decision, naming former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his brothers Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and late Abbas Sharif, their mother Shamim Akhter, Shehbaz's son and MNA Hamza Shehbaz, Nawaz's daughter Maryam, and others as respondents.

A joint investigation team set up to investigate the Sharif family's offshore properties had recommended in its report that the Hudaibya Paper Mills should be investigated afresh. During the Panama case, the SC had given the NAB chairman a dressing down for his refusal to file an appeal against the LHC verdict in the Hudaibiya case.

The Hudaibiya Paper Mills is basically about money laundering of Sharif family during 1990s. Later, NAB had decided not to challenge the high court's decision. The original reference in the Hudaibiya case in 2000 had relied on Ishaq Dar's confession to accuse the Sharif family of setting up Hudaibiya Paper Mills through laundered money under cover of the Economic Reforms Act 1992.

The Hudaibiya Paper Mills case came to the limelight when a five-member SC bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, took up PTI's plea to disqualify Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on charges of facilitating the Sharif family in alleged money laundering of Rs1.2 billion. Justice Khosa had also argued there was a flaw in the Lahore High Court's decision in 2014 to quash the reference and disallow reinvestigation by NAB while apparently accepting Dar's plea that his confessional statement was extracted under duress.

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