Panama Leaks Case Verdict: Minor Relief, Major Headache for Pakistan PM

Onkareshwar Pandey

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has got minor relief and major headache. The Pakistan Army which had successfully ousted him on 12 October 1999 under the command of General Parvez Musharraf after the Kargil war with India, will probe that whether Sharif and his family is guilty of amassing illegal wealth abroad. Simply, PM Nawaz Sharif has got minor relief and major headache from this verdict.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan and other opposition leaders had alleged that the prime minister and his family had illegally profited from his position through money laundering abroad.

He will continue to rule as the Prime Minister of his country. The much-anticipated verdict on the case which took the country by storm and dominated headlines in the country for over a year now has given little relief to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family for now.

Giving verdict on corruption allegations against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif based on the “Panama Papers” leaks, the apex court of Pakistan in Islamabad, has ordered Sharif and family to appear before the probe team when it is formed. This means that Mian Nawaz Sharif’s political future will depend on the mercy of the Pakistan Army.

A Joint Investigation team (JIT) will be formed to carry out further investigation as per court’s verdict. The committee comprising of one senior official each from the FIA, NAB, SECP, SBP, ISI, and MI, will be tasked to probe the assets. It simply means Prime Minister will be on the mercy of ISI and the Pakistan Army.

The JIT will continue investigation on how funds were transferred to Qatar, which the prime minister’s children said led to assets held by his sons through offshore businesses in Panama. Thus the tension will remain for Nawaz Sharif and his family till the investigations are over.

The joint investigation team will submit its report in 60 days. Till then the case will continue to dominate Pakistan’s domestic politics as the general elections are due next year in the country.

“The prime minister and his party breathed a collective sigh of relief, as the fear of an ‘extreme verdict’ — the premier’s ouster — dissolved and gave way to celebrations”, Pakistani newspaper Dawn says. However the newspaper opined that its- “Neither a clean chit nor a disqualification: the drawn out Supreme Court (SC) case probing the Sharif family’s alleged corruption in the Panamagate case ended today as the court ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe how the family’s money was transferred to Qatar”. “The prime minister has made it through the Panamagate case, but just barely”, The Express Tribune says.

The supreme court of Pakistan has not found sufficient evidence against him. But the ghost of panama papers will continue to haunt him in the future also because the apex court has ordered further probe into the corruption allegations.

Quoting the popular 1969 novel ‘The Godfather’ by Mario Puzo, the apex court of Pakistan 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.
— Balzac

“The novel was a popular sensation which was made into an acclaimed film. It is believed that this epigraph was inspired by a sentence that was written by Honoré de Balzac and its original version in French reads as follows:
Le secret des grandes fortunes sans cause apparente est un crime oublié, parce qu’il a été proprement fait.
(The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly executed).

“The stark reality is that the allegations of corruption, corrupt practices and money laundering, etc. involving over Rs. 1.2 billion and prosecution on the basis of such allegations had been scuttled by the High Court and this Court would not like to stand in the way of reopening of the said investigation or prosecution where even the smallest opening for such investigation or prosecution is available or legally possible” the apex court said.

The decision is important for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and PM Nawaz Sharif because he might project it as a clean chit by the apex court onPanama leaks corruption case.

PM Nawaz Sharif and his party PML-N leaders are already in jubilant mood after the court’s verdict. Maryam Nawaz, the prime minister’s daughter, immediately tweeted photographs of Sharif in a celebratory mood with his family, embracing his brother Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

She also posted another picture which showed the prime minister with Shahbaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam, Senator Pervaiz Rashid and other senior PML-N leaders. Speaking to media following the decision, PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique said that “Nawaz Sharif, his team, PML-N, our voters and all Pakistanis who are advocates of democracy have won”.

The order to create a joint investigation team is the victory of the PM’s point of view, He added while saying that with Nawaz Sharif in the lead, the PML-N will win in the in the people’s court in 2018. “Not only will we establish our government in all four provinces, we will also get two-thirds majority.” Rafique added.

It is also being seen as a major jolt to his political opponents because the court did a thorough scrutiny of the arguments from all sides, including PM Nawaz, his family, federation of Pakistan, various departments and institutions, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, Jamaat Islami chief Siraj ul-Haq and Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed on the allegations levelled against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his previous two terms in office in the 1990s.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan and other opposition leaders had alleged that the prime minister and his family illegally profited from his position.

The opposition parties, after a year-long protest movement both inside and outside Parliament, had finally taken the case to the country’s top court expecting a verdict to oust PM Nawaz Sharif from his post by the apex court. The Supreme Court of Pakistan had been hearing the case on a daily basis for the last two weeks. While the top court continued to hear the case on a daily basis, to conclude the case soon, political parties’ kept attempting to influence the decision through media campaigns.

The opposition, however, has continued its tirade against PM Nawaz Sharif and has demanded for his resignation. “If the prime minister has any shame, he should resign today. The prime minister of this country will be presented in front of joint controller of the FIA,” said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) spokesperson Fawad Hussain outside the courtroom immediately after the verdict. He further said – “Two judges have reached the conclusion that the PM should be disqualified,” while referring to the dissenting opinion in the 3-2 split verdict.

 

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