Panama Papers case: Pakistan Supreme Court resumes hearing against Nawaz Sharif
The Supreme Court hearing will determine whether Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is put on trial over graft charges or even disqualified as a lawmaker.world Updated: Jul 17, 2017 13:40 IST
Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday began hearings that will decide the future of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is fighting for his job and contesting a damning corruption report by an investigative panel.
The Supreme Court is expected to put Sharif on trial on corruption charges or even disqualify him, but few expect the judges to dismiss the case after a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) appointed by the court tabled a damaging 254-page report into his family wealth.
Sharif has denied any wrongdoing after the report alleged his family’s vast wealth was beyond their means, and accused his children, including presumed heir Maryam Nawaz, of signing forged documents to obscure ownership of posh London flats.
Sharif, 67, has rejected demands by opposition parties to resign, warning his ouster would destabilise the country and imperil hard-won economic gains since his poll victory in 2013.
“It hurts that despite of our hard work, attempts are afoot once again to push the country back,” Sharif told a meeting of his ruling PML-N parliamentary party over the weekend.
The Supreme Court ordered the JIT to investigate the matter after the Panama Papers leaks showed Sharif’s two sons and his daughter owned offshore assets worth millions of dollars. The revelations fuelled suspicions that the family had used offshore companies to launder ill-gotten wealth.
As the hearing of the case resumed on Monday, the lawyers for the Sharif family and finance minister Ishaq Dar, related to the premier by marriage, filed objections to the JIT’s report. The counsel argued the JIT had exceeded its mandate.
The counsel for Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which had petitioned the apex court to investigate the allegations against the Sharif family, told the judges that the JIT had highlighted how the Sharifs had been unable to establish the money trail in several transactions.
The counsel also pointed out that trust deeds for four flats at Park Lane in London were found by the JIT to be fake.
In April, Sharif narrowly escaped disqualification after the Supreme Court ruled there was insufficient evidence to remove him – by a 2-3 split – over documents released by the Panama Papers leak. It then ordered a probe JIT, which included representatives from military intelligence agencies.
Sharif has talked of a conspiracy against him, but has not named anyone. His allies, however, privately claim elements of Pakistan’s powerful military and the judiciary are bent on toppling him.
The army spokesman brushed aside questions about claims the military’s hidden hand was the driving force behind the JIT, saying “the Pakistan army is not directly connected”.
The six-person JIT included one member from the military intelligence agency and another from the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence directorate.
Sharif, the son of an industrialist serving his third term in power, has had a fractious relationship with the army. He was originally nurtured by military ruler Zia-ul-Haq as a civilian politician who would protect their interests and he served as prime minister twice in the 1990s.
But relations soured and his second stint as prime minister ended when he was ousted in a 1999 coup leading to a decade of exile. Relations with the military during the current term have also been tense at times.
Imran Khan, the opposition leader who pushed the hardest for Sharif to be investigated, said the premier would end up in jail, and vowed protests if he was not ousted by the court.
“Either we will celebrate in Islamabad or otherwise we will hit the streets to save our democracy and to make sure we send this mafia to Adiala Jail,” Khan told supporters.