LAMIYA SHABBIR WRITES – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been in headlines more than usual lately. He can thank the so-called ‘Panama Papers’ and a ruling last month by the country’s supreme court that there’s too little evidence to oust him from office.
The Panama Papers is shorthand for a massive leak of documents last year that exposed the offshore holdings of high-income people around the globe, including politicians and business elites. The leaks provided hidden financial details of around 130 people and showed how law firms, banks and other service providers help hide cash and secretive transactions.
The papers were leaked and eventually reported on in a series of investigations by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organizations.
Sharif and his children were among those whose business dealings came to light, and opposition politician Imran Khan convinced the court to investigate or face massive, gridlock-inducing demonstrations.
Khan’s petition was against the PM, his daughter and two sons, the country’s finance minister and others close to first family. Overall, the allegation was of money laundering, purchasing expensive foreign properties, setting up offshore companies to avoid taxes and maintaining a bogus foreign currency account.
Sharif stated that he was not obliged to declare the money on tax or other disclosure documents because the money was in his children’s names, and that it was earned through legitimate businesses in Gulf countries.
After months of hearings, the Pakistani Supreme Court issued its verdict April 20. In a split decision, it decided there was insufficient evidence to remove Sharif from office, and ordered further investigation into the charges. The 3-2 ruling included dissents from two judges who thought the PM should go.
Not surprisingly, Sharif and Khan saw the decision differently. The PM and his supporters call it a vindication, while the Khan clan point to the split as evidence that Sharif is unfit for office.