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Panama leaks: Pak PM Sharif files objections to JIT report on family’s assets

As the Supreme Court resumed hearing the Panama Papers case that could decide the fate of Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister filed his objections to the Joint Investigation Team’s report.

world Updated: Jul 17, 2017 23:22 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Pakistan Supreme Court,Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif,Panama Papers leaks
File photo of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his plane after attending a ceremony in Sindh province in February 2017. (Reuters)

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif filed objections to an investigative panel’s report that concluded his family’s assets exceeded their sources of income as Pakistan’s Supreme Court resumed hearing the Panamagate case on Monday.

The hearings are expected to decide the future of Sharif, who is fighting for his job and contesting the Joint Investigation Team (JIT)’s damning corruption report.

The top court could put Sharif on trial on corruption charges or even disqualify him, but few expect the judges to dismiss the case after JIT appointed by the court tabled a damaging 254-page report into his family wealth.

In a petition filed through his lawyer, Sharif said most of the information collected by the JIT is baseless and mala fide, and that the head of the panel used personal friends and relatives to make a case against the premier’s family.

Sharif, 67, also said the JIT misused its powers and, in many instances, misrepresented his family and its business dealings. Finance minister Ishaq Dar, related to Sharif by marriage, also filed objections to the JIT’s report.

The premier also argued that some documents from foreign governments included in the JIT’s report had no legal value and should not be considered as evidence. Referring to Inter-Services Intelligence’s representative in the JIT, Sharif said the person was not an employee of the spy agency and could not represent it on such a body.

Pakistani policemen cordon off the main entrance of the Supreme Court during a hearing on the Panama Papers case in Islamabad on July 17, 2017 after the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) presented a final report of its investigation probing allegations of money laundering against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family. ( AFP )

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 Supreme Court adjourned the matter till Tuesday after hearing the lawyers from both sides.

Minister of state for information Marriyum Aurangzeb told reporters she was encouraged by the proceedings and expected the court to reject the JIT’s findings and exonerate the Sharif family of all charges.

“After the full documents are reviewed by the Supreme Court, and documents pertaining to Volume 10 (of the JIT’s report) are examined, the case against the prime miniser and his family will collapse,” she said. “The decision to hold the prime minister guilty lies with the Supreme Court, not the JIT.”

Volume 10 includes sensitive documents supplied by foreign countries which were not included in the JIT’s report.

Pakistani lawyers shout slogans against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif next to PML-N party leader Daniyal Aziz (left) outside the Supreme Court during a hearing on the Panama Papers case in Islamabad on July 17, 2017. ( AFP )

Sharif has denied any wrongdoing after the JIT’s report alleged his family’s vast wealth was beyond their means, and accused his children, including daughter Maryam Nawaz, of signing forged documents to obscure the ownership of four posh London flats.

He has also rejected demands by opposition parties to resign, warning his ouster would destabilise Pakistan and endanger hard-won economic gains since his election victory in 2013.

The Supreme Court ordered the JIT to investigate 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.

In April, Sharif narrowly escaped disqualification after the Supreme Court ruled there was insufficient evidence to remove him – by a 2-3 split – over the Panama Papers leak. It then ordered a probe by the JIT, which included representatives from military intelligence agencies.

Sharif has talked of a conspiracy against him but has not named anyone. His allies privately claim elements of the 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”.

First Published: Jul 17, 2017 17:02 IST