• CJP orders removal of Bilawal and CM Shah's names from JIT report, ECL

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    Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah File photo Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah

    Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Monday, while hearing the mega money laundering and fake bank accounts case, ordered that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah's names be removed from the joint investigation team (JIT) report and the Exit Control List (ECL).

    A three-judge bench headed by the chief justice heard the mega money laundering and fake bank accounts case.

    During the hearing, the top judge asked the JIT counsel why Bilawal's name was included in the report.

    "Bilawal Bhutto and the Sindh chief minister have only been included for political scoring. How does being a director prove that Bilawal is part of a scandal?" the chief justice questioned.

    "His [Bilawal's] father and paternal aunt were running the businesses. In this moment, Bilawal is clean and innocent. Why has his name been included?" the top judge further asked. "Bilawal is taking forward his mother's political inheritance," he added.

    At this, counsel Farooq H Naek stated, "Zardari and Talpur have no direct link with the allegations. The allegations against the former president and his sister are based on assumptions."

    "Zardari, Talpur and Bilawal's replies to the JIT have not been made part of the report. This step by the JIT is based on ill-intentions and we reject the allegations," Naek further said. When the chief justice pointed out that there were "no ill-intentions" in the formation of the JIT, Naek said, "I take back the term."

    At this, counsel Latif Khosa said, "A media trial is being conducted through the JIT report. Federal cabinet members are talking about governor's rule and the government is attempting to remove all other political parties."

    Justice Nisar, however, said, "Democracy is a blessing and we will not allow anyone to violate fundamental rights. Thank God elections took place as before the polls people kept saying they won't happen. We will protect the Constitution and that is our commitment to the people."

    The JIT counsel then said, "We can delete Bilawal's name from the report." The chief justice then ordered that "all parts of the JIT report which mention Bilawal's name be deleted".

    A lot of matter against Omni Group: CJP

    Earlier as the hearing went under way, the attorney general submitted a clarification regarding placing names of 172 suspects on the Exit Control List (ECL) in light of the JIT's report.

    The attorney general informed the court, “The federal government has forwarded the matter of placing names on ECL to the review committee. Further progress on this matter is expected by January 10.”

    At this, the Omni Group counsel stated, “The matter has been further complicated by forwarding it to the committee. We don’t know when the committee will take measures.”

    Expressing anger over the Omni Group counsel’s remarks, the chief justice said, “If you have an issue then forget the cabinet, I will place names on ECL.”

    “You are not discussing the real case,” Justice Nisar further told the Omni Group counsel.

    “So much matter has come against Omni Group that no one can shut their eyes to it. Bags of sugar have also been picked up, tell us which court should we forward this matter to?” Justice Nisar added.

    The case

    The Federal Investigation Agency is investigating 32 people in relation to money laundering from fictitious accounts, including Zardari and Talpur. Zardari’s close aide Hussain Lawai was arrested in July in connection with the probe.

    The former president’s other close aide and Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed a close aide and Omni Group chairman and his son, Abdul Ghani, were arrested by FIA in August.

    Over 20 ‘benami’ accounts at some private banks were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 from where transactions worth billions of rupees were made, according to sources.

    The amount, according to FIA sources, is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes.

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