This is a developing story.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court has given a landmark verdict disqualifying Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif following a corruption probe into his family wealth and nine months after the matter was taken up at the apex court. Sharif resigned hours after the historic verdict, his office announced. The name of Sharif family emerged in Panama Papers, an unprecedented leak of 11.5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm,Panama based Mossack Fonseca, in April 2016.
The court ordered the National Accountability Bureau, the country’s premier agency that investigates financial crimes and corruption, to file separate corruption references against Sharif and his family members and close associates, including his two sons, daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law.
The court ordered the election commission to de-notify Sharif and his son-in-law and his former military aide Safdar, a retired army captain, as members of Parliament. The court said the election commission should de-seat Sharif for not disclosing his role in the Dubai-based Capital FZE company in his election nomination papers, saying that this meant he was not ‘honest’ and ‘truthful’. Sharif and much of his family members will not be able to hold any public or political offices in the light of court verdict.
The court ordered disqualification of Ishaq Dar, a close confident of Sharif and Pakistan’s finance minister. The court asked the country’s election commission to de-seat Dar for being unable to explain his ownership of assets beyond his means. Dar had confessed to money laundering after General Pervez Musharraf toppled Sharif’s second government in 1999. He, however, backtracked from his confession insisting it was taken from him under duress.
The JIT investigation has revealed shocking details about Pakistan’s ruling elite’s international dealings and clash of interests. Dar himself had a UAE work permit and served as an “advisor” to a powerful Dubai-based business house and received close to 100 million dollars in three years for his services as “consultant”.
Similarly, the defense minister Khwaja Asif, another member of Sharif’s kitchen cabinet, who also serves as minister for water and power, had a UAE work permit. He drew thousands of dollars in monthly salary (at least on papers) while being an employee of another Dubai-based business entity. Sharif’s another senior aide, Ahsan Iqbal, was also found to have a work permit for a Saudi Arabia based company.
With Sharif’s humiliating exit, nuclear-armed Pakistan has essentially plunged into a political crisis. His Pakistan Muslim League faction, a party of largely political turncoats, has to nominate a new prime minister. It may matter less as to who becomes the next prime minister, because he will be extremely weak, prone to political blackmail of party’s turncoat back benchers. Many analysts doubt that the country’s current parliament will complete its term, ending in the middle of next year.
The massive Panama Papers leaks revealed that twelve national leaders were among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens. They included Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif, Iraq’s former prime minister Ayad Allawi, Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko; Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak; and the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson. Sigmundur was forced to resign after massive public protests on April 16, 2016.
According to the Panama Papers, Sharif’s children raised a £7m loan from Deutsche Bank against four flats in Park Lane in London owned by offshore companies. The Sharif family made contradictory statements about the ownerships and sources of money used to buy the expensive properties. Panama Papers caused huge public outcry, lead by opposition leader Imran Khan, who has been accusing the South Asian nation’s powerful and often corrupt political elite of massive money laundering, fraud and financial corruption.
The case landed in front of a five-member bench of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, based on several identical petitions by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and others about alleged illegal assets of the Sharif’s family on Park Lane in London.
Sharif narrowly survived disqualification in a 2-3 split decision of the five-member bench on April 20, which ordered setting up a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) within a week to find answers to 13 questions related to Sharif family’s money trail, allegations of money laundering, tax evasion etc. The JIT consisted of officials from the Federal Investigation Agency, the National Accountability Bureau, the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the Military Intelligence (MI) and ISI. Sharif, his two sons — Hasan and Hussain –, his daughter Maryam, his son-in-law Safdar, his close relative and Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar were among scores of people who appeared before the JIT to answer questions
The JIT submitted a damning 256-page report to the court of July 10, finding Nawaz Sharif and his family of failing to prove money trail for their lavish lifestyle and expensive overseas properties. The court reserved its verdict on July 21 after hearing concluding arguments of the petitioners and defendants. The investigation revealed that three of Sharif’s children owned offshore companies and assets not shown on his family’s wealth statement. Nawaz Sharif was also found to be holding a work permit in the United Arab Emirates in an offshore company with a monthly salary. Sharif denies that he never received any salary.
Nawaz Sharif, who has been the Prime Minister of Pakistan for a record three times, has also been fired for a record three times on corruption charges.