Nawaz Sharif survives after top court verdict in Panama Papers case

Pakistan Court orders joint investigation team to probe corruption charges

Image Credit: AFP
Supporters of the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) carry posters of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as they hold a rally after a Supreme Court verdict on the Panama Papers in Lahore on April 20, 2017.

The Godfather link to Nawaz Sharif’s case

“The popular 1969 novel ‘The Godfather’ by Mario Puzo recounted the violent tale of a Mafia family and the epigraph selected by the author was fascinating: ‘Behind every great fortune there is a crime’.”

That’s precisely how the 549-page court judgment on the Panama Papers revelations against Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif begins. Produced by the five-member bench of Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, the judgment then proceeds to explain the links between the Godfather, Honoré de Balzac and Sharif’s family: “It is ironical and a sheer coincidence that the present case revolves around that very sentence attributed to Balzac as through Constitution Petition No. 29 of 2016 it has been alleged by the petitioner… that while holding high public offices in the State of Pakistan over a stretched period of time respondent No. 1 namely Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the incumbent Prime Minister of Pakistan, and through him his immediate family has amassed huge wealth and assets which have been acquired through means which were illegal and unfair, practices which were unlawful and corrupt and exercise of public authority which was misused and abused.” Read full text of verdict

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court has decided to form a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) within next seven days to further investigate the charges against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his two sons on property documentation, tax evasion and money trail.

The final verdict in famous Panama Papers case was split 3-2 among the bench, with two dissenting notes by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmad. The two judges ruled against Sharif, saying he should be disqualified, whereas the other three judges were in favour of forming a JIT.

The split judgement called for further investigation by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and other agencies to examine the case further. Sharif will be required to present before the team which has been asked by the court to submit its report in 60 days.

The five-judge bench ordered an extensive probe into the money trail for Sharif family in the Panama Papers scandal citing “insufficient evidence”. “It needs to be investigated how the money was transferred to Qatar,” the verdict read.

The judgement was made public 57 days after the case was last heard amid a lot of anticipation among the masses and high security of around 1,500 police force deployed around the Court area for security.

‘A victory for PML-N’

The Prime Minister and his supporters claim the decision as a victory after Pakistan’s Supreme Court announced much-awaited decision on the “Panama Papers” case that was moved by opposition leaders seeking Sharif’s removal from office.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) tweeted photos and shared statements on social media of celebration after the verdict. The Premier’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, tweeted a photo of Prime Minister Sharif, his family and PML-N leaders celebrating the verdict with smiles.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said “We are ready for all kinds of investigation.”

Railways Minister Saad Rafique said that the PML-N would “fully cooperate with the JIT and the court’s decision will be respected.”

In a press conference after the decision, the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan demanded Nawaz Sharif’s resignation, citing that the Joint Investigation Team cannot work freely and independently without the resignation of Nawaz Sharif. “I demand Nawaz Sharif resign ... Until the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) completes its probe,” Khan said.

Former president and co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari said: “Nawaz Sharif should hand in his resignation.”

Corruption allegations

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family came under fire at home for widespread corruption after huge leak of 11.5 million financial and legal records documents known as Panama Papers.

Eight offshore companies reportedly have links with the family of Nawaz Sharif. His three children — Maryam, Hussain and Hasan — were owners of offshore companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and used them to buy properties in London, according to the Panama Papers.

The case against Sharif family on charges of corruption was presented by the Opposition parties Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), the Watan Party and the All Pakistan Muslim League, demanding PM’s resignation over alleged corruption.

Most Pakistanis seem critical of decision

What do Pakistanis think of the Panama Papers verdict?

Most Pakistanis were critical of the verdict by Supreme Court of Pakistan to form a Joint Investigation Team to further investigate the corruption and money laundering case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members.

The media had created a big hype since last 48 hours on the issue, but broadcast critical reactions of the people yesterday.

Pro-government political activists termed it as a victory but opposition leaders and activists appeared dissatisfied with the decision to hold further investigation. Political activists on social media posted sarcastic comments on the verdict within hours of its announcement.

Mohammad Talha Sarwar commenting on the verdict said: “Panama’s verdict is nothing more than the travesty of justice ... JIT would be of no use now, as Justice delayed is justice denied btw the Only thing I wonder now is, What have Our SC’s honourable Judges been doing, hitherto, if they couldn’t investigate the case!”

Time for the corrupt

Another activist, Shahida Ahmad, highlighted a valid point. “If they needed to investigate further then why waste 57 days to delay the judgement. It clearly shows that the justice delayed is justice denied. It is not good for Pakistan that only corrupt people get more time to buy justice, that’s it.”

Shahid Adil, a student, said: “Justice delayed is justice denied. Now we have to rely on that NAB which according to these Judges has no credibility at all.”

In the hot seat

Nawaz Sharif is a veteran Pakistani politician and businessman, who was the elected the nation’s Prime Minister twice and is currently serving his third term.

His family businesses revolve around steel, sugar and textile industries.

In 1993, Sharif’s government was dismissed over charges of corruption but was reinstated by the court.

After an October 1999 military coup ousting his government, Sharif went into exile in Saudi Arabia until 2007.

He was elected prime minister again in June 2013.

Nawaz Sharif has two sons and two daughters.

Last April, the Panama Papers revealed that three of Sharif’s children controlled shell companies through which they owned expensive residential properties in London.

At a glance: Sharif family

Maryam Nawaz Sharif

Maryam Nawaz Sharif is increasingly playing an active role in Pakistani politics and is being groomed by father Nawaz Sharif as the next-in line prime minister. She is married to Captain Safdar

Hussain, who is one of the accused in the Panama Papers. Maryam is currently the chairperson of PML-N Youth Wing, and enjoys a fan following of 3.11 million on Twitter.

Hussain Nawaz Sharif

The elder son of Nawaz Sharif, Hussain is settled in Saudi Arabia and looks after the Sharif family business. In the past, he has admitted to owning two companies for the family.

Hassan Nawaz Sharif

The younger son, Hassan Nawaz Sharif is settled in London and is responsible for his family business. It is believed that he owns major shares in the Nawaz family’s steel mills in Saudi Arabia.

What next

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has formed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) which will now take statements of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his two sons Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz to collect evidences of bank transition and money transfer trails, which made them possible to purchase London flats and other businesses abroad.

The terms of references of the probe body will be devised by the apex court. The JIT will decide the matter in a stipulated period of 60 days.

JIT will by comprised of officials of National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), State Bank of Pakistan, Inter-

Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) and will be led by a director-general level FIA officer.

According to the court orders, the names of members of the JIT must be announced within seven days. The JIT would report its progress to the court on a weekly basis. A bench of the apex court will examine the case under Section 184/3 of the Constitution.

Timeline

April 3, 2016: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family came under the spotlight after the Panama Papers (11.5 million secret documents) were leaked by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists which revealed a global web of corruption and tax avoidance.

April 5: Due to mounting pressure, Sharif addressed the nation and announced to form a judicial commission to investigate the offshore firms owned by members of his family.

April 22: In a second state address, Sharif vowed he will resign and go home if proven guilty by the Panama Papers investigation.

May 18: Pakistan government and opposition agreed to form a 12-member committee for an inquiry commission to probe the Panama Papers.

October 20: The Supreme Court of Pakistan accepted petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf, Jamhoori Watan Party, Jamaat-i-Islami and others to begin the proceedings on Panama case in an open court.

November 7: Sharif’s children Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz submitted their replies to the court which stated that Sharif’s two sons have been living outside Pakistan for a very long time and their father had no involvement in children’s businesses or properties. It added that Maryam was not the beneficiary owner of the off-shore companies, Nielsen and Nescoll, but only a trustee.

November 16: Sharif family submitted a letter purportedly written by Qatari Prince Hamad Bin Jassim in which he claims that the London properties were purchased through the settlement of accounts between his family’s company and the Sharif family.

January 26, 2017:  The Sharif family submitted another letter signed by a Qatari royal which claimed that Mian Muhammad Sharif (father of Nawaz Sharif), had invested 12 million dirhams in Al Thani family “by cash”.

February 23: After prolonged hearing, the Supreme Court reserved its verdict on the case and said a detailed judgement to be announced in April.

April 20: Supreme Court announces its much-awaited verdict. While Nawaz Sharif got a reprieve, the Supreme Court ordered he should be investigated further for corruption.

 

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