Pakistan Supreme Court To Decide The Fate Of Prime Minister After Damning Corruption Probe Report

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attends the closing session of 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Kathmandu November 27, 2014. A brief meeting between India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart appears to have salvaged a summit of South Asian leaders, with all eight countries clinching a last-minute deal to create a regional electricity grid.  REUTERS/Niranjan Shrestha/Pool (NEPAL - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR4FUCN

The Supreme Court of Pakistan is expected to decide the fate of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when it takes up the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report on Monday, July 17. The JIT has charged the ruling family with perjury, having disproportionate income and living beyond their means.

Two judges of the court have already declared the Prime Minister as not being truthful. If three judges agree on the findings of the JIT, Nawaz Sharif could face disqualification from politics.

The JIT, probing the Panama Papers, pointed out failure on the part of the Sharifs to produce the required information that would confirm their “known sources of income”, saying that prima facie, it amounted to saying that they were not able to reconcile their assets with their means of income.

The assets of Prime Minister’s family were revealed in the findings published by the Panama Papers in April last year.

The JIT report said the financial structure and wealth of companies in Pakistan that are linked to the Sharifs also do not substantiate the family’s wealth and a significant disparity exists between the wealth declared by the Sharifs and the means through which they generated income.

Moreover, the report highlights the “irregular movement of huge amounts in shape of loans and gifts” from the Saudi-based company Hill Metals Establish­ment, the UK-based Flag­ship Investments Limited and the UAE-based Capital FZE, to Nawaz Sharif, his son Hus­sain Nawaz and the Pakistan-based companies of the prime minister and his family.

“The role of offshore companies is critically important as several offshore companies (Nescoll Limited, Niel­son Enterprises Limited, Alanna Services Ltd, Lam­kin S.A. Coomber Group Inc and Hiltern International Ltd) have been identified to be linked with their businesses in UK,” the report states.

These companies, it said, were mainly used for “inflow of funds into UK-based companies, which not only acquired expensive properties in UK from such funds but also revolve these funds amongst their companies of United Kingdom (UK), Saudi Arab, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan”.

A major part of the JIT probe involved intricate foreign financial transactions that had taken place over the years through the offshore companies owned by the Sharif family.

On July 10, the JIT submitted its findings and declared that the Prime Minister remained chairman of FZE Capital Company in Dubai, contrary to his statement in Parliament that he was not part of any business since 1998.

The JIT accused Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam and her brothers of signing forged documents to obscure ownership of offshore companies used to buy posh London flats.

Nawaz Sharif rejects demands for resignation

Tellingly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his party, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), remain defiant in the face of the opposition’s call for his ouster, with the ruling party vowing to challenge the JIT report.

Nawaz Sharif on Thursday said he would not step down in the wake of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report, which concluded that him and his family not only concealed assets from tax authorities, but also committed perjury by submitting fake documents to conceal information.

“I will not resign on the demand of a group of conspirators. The journey of progress will not be allowed to derail as the country has already paid a huge price due to political crises in the past,” he was quoted as saying by the state-run media.

But Opposition parties have persisted with the resignation demand. Opposition leaders Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) and Bilawal Bhutto of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have warned that “democracy could be in danger” if Mr. Sharif did not agree to step down.

According to Zahid Hussain of Dawn, Sharif’s fate has hung in the balance since the ruling of the five-member bench in May this year. Although he narrowly escaped disqualification, the formation of the JIT indicated that he was not out of the woods.

Hussain argues: “Although he appears defiant, the options for Sharif are now limited. He may still stay prime minister until the court ruling, but he has already lost political and moral authority. Any confrontation would not only be disastrous for the government but also for the democratic political process. Confronted with serious domestic and external challenges, the country cannot afford worsening political uncertainty and instability.”

Prime Minister’s party, PML-N, can still survive in power and complete its five-year term by electing a new leader and prepare for the next elections that are only months away. That is the only way that the political uncertainty can end, Hussain concluded.

Sharif’s loss may strengthen army, has India worried

A serious setback to Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif following the disclosure that his daughter and putative heir apparent, Maryam Sharif, had concealed ownership of the family’s offshore assets and companies threatens to create new security complications for India, the Times of India said Thursday.

If the SC decides to implement the report, perhaps by next week, Sharif might either be removed or, at the very least, be rendered completely ineffectual. This could have implications for India in the coming weeks and months, particularly in the security sphere, the Indian newspaper said.

“India and Pakistan barely have any official interactions any more. The walk-by greeting between PM Narendra Modi and Sharif in Astana (capital of Kazakhstan) epitomized the state of ties, which does not go beyond pleasantries,” the Times of India said adding:

“But while the loss of Sharif is unlikely to strike a blow at bilateral ties, a change of regime at this time might mean that there will be new players in Islamabad, too new to matter, leaving the job of governance and foreign policy to the army brass in Rawalpindi. However, the dominant opinion holds that JIT’s findings have severely weakened Sharif’s position by cutting his avenues of deniability, something which can be a source of worry for India. The outcome of the Sharif investigation and the resultant instability holds out the old red flags.”

According to the Times of India, Government circles in New Delhi seem to agree as they brace for what might turn out to be possible post-Sharif scenarios. The general elections are only months away, and if the army wants to preserve the democratic facade, they could allow Sharif to stay on until then. Second, Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz could take over his mantle.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America ( email: asghazali2011 (@)

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