Prime Minister of Pakistan Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif’s third term in power ended Friday (July 28) unceremoniously after the Supreme Court disqualified him from holding public office in a landmark unanimous decision on the so-called Panama Papers case.
“The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) shall issue a notification disqualifying Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif from being a member of the Parliament with immediate effect, after which he shall cease to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan,” Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan told the packed courtroom Friday afternoon.
The prime minister was disqualified from holding his office as the judges ruled that he had been dishonest to parliament and the courts and could not be deemed fit for his office.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and son-in-law of Nawaz Sharif, Captain Safdar, who is a member of parliament, were also declared unfit for office. Dar was disqualified for being unable to explain his ownership of assets beyond his means.
The judges ruled that Nawaz had been dishonest to the parliament and the courts in not disclosing his employment in the Dubai-based Capital FZE company in his 2013 nomination papers, and thus, could not be deemed fit for his office.
“It is hereby declared that having failed to disclose his un-withdrawn receivables constituting assets from Capital FZE Jebel Ali, UAE in his nomination papers filed for the General Elections held in 2013 in terms of Section 12(2)(f) of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 (ROPA), and having furnished a false declaration under solemn affirmation respondent No. 1 Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is not honest in terms of Section 99(f) of ROPA and Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973and therefore he is disqualified to be a Member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).”
Tellingly, Nawaz Sharif has been ousted on graft charges once before, sacked by the country´s then-president during the first of his three terms as prime minister in 1993.
Shortly after the Supreme Court Order, the PM House issued a notification saying that Nawaz Sharif, despite having “strong reservations” on the SC’s verdict, has stepped down from his post as the premier.
Reacting to the court’s order, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz spokesperson said that the party will utilize all legal and constitutional means to contest the verdict.
The federal cabinet was dissolved after Nawaz Sharif relinquished his responsibilities as the prime minister of Pakistan.
As the head of the ruling PML-N, he will still be able to nominate his successor. Sharif’s chosen candidate will be put to a vote in the National Assembly — a rubber stamp affair as the PML-N holds a strong majority in the house.
Joint Investigation Team
On April 20 the Supreme Court appointed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the case and collect evidence, if any, showing that Nawaz Sharif or any of his dependents or benamidar owns, possesses or acquired assets or any interest therein disproportionate to their known means of income.
The six-member JIT’s damning report, submitted after a 60-day investigation that sought answers to 13 questions raised by the Supreme Court’s larger bench, had maintained that Prime Minister’s family owned assets beyond its known sources of income. It declared that his sons, Hussain and Hassan Nawaz, were used as proxies to build family assets.
Consequently, the six-man JIT concluded that it was compelled to refer to sections 9(a)(v) and 14(c) of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999, which deal with corruption and corrupt practices, though such charges are yet to be proven in an accountability court.
The JIT 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.
References in accountability courts
Justice Khan said that the bench had recommended that all material collected by the joint investigation team (JIT) tasked with probing the Sharif family’s financial dealings be sent to an accountability court within six weeks.
The bench said that on the basis of this information, cases would be opened against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar; MNA Captain Muhammad Safdar (son-in-law); Maryam (daughter, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz (sons); as well as the premier.
A judgment on these references should be announced within six months, he said. One judge will oversee the implementation of this order.
The controversy erupted last year with the publication of 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca documenting the offshore dealings of many of the world´s rich and powerful.
Three of Sharif´s four children — Maryam, his daughter, and his sons Hasan and Hussein — were implicated in the papers.
At the heart of the case is the legitimacy of the funds used by the Sharif family to purchase several high-end London properties via offshore companies.
The PML-N insists the wealth was acquired legally, through Sharif family businesses in Pakistan and the Persian Gulf.
Pak politicians, businessmen own companies abroad
According to investigating reporter Umer Cheema of The News:
The names found in the secret files range from those of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s relatives; from Benazir Bhutto to Javed Pasha; from Senator Rehman Malik to Senator Osman Saifullah’s family; and from Waseem Gulzar (a relative of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat) to Zain Sukhera, who was co-accused with former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s son in the Haj scandal.
Businessmen featured in the record range from hotel tycoon Sadruddin Hashwani to real estate czar Malik Riaz Hussain’s son; from the Hussain Dawood family to the Abdullah family of Sapphire Textiles, Gul Muhammad Tabba of Lucky Textiles as well as Shahid Nazir of Masood Textiles and from Zulfiqar Ali Lakhani to Zulfiqar Paracha.
Members from the bar and the bench were also spotted in the documents include one serving judge of the Lahore High Court, Justice Farrukh Irfan; and one retired judge, Malik Qayyum. Owner of Hilton Pharma, Shehbaz Yasin Malik opened the company for a Swiss bank account. Chairman ABM Group of Companies Azam Sultan, Pizza Hut owner Aqeel Hussain and Chairman Soorty Enterprise Abdul Rashid Soorty were also identified along with the family members.
Records spanning four decades buried behind the tight wall of secrecy are on open display now confirming doubts and fuelling debate about the offshore jurisdictions like the British Virgin Island, Panama and Seychelles etc. Data made available is of one little known but a big law firm based in Panama, Mossack Fonseca, having global footprints in terms of its offshore clients.
Over 200 Pakistanis have been identified and the counting is still in progress. The data under examination covers nearly 40 years from 1977 through the end of 2015. Pakistanis started figuring in the record from 1990 onward.
Not a single PM completed five-year term in Pakistan
Not a single prime minister in Pakistan has been allowed to complete his tenure since the country’s inception 70 years ago.
According to investigating reporter Usman Manzoor of The News:
Pakistan’s first prime minister was murdered in Rawalpindi on October 16, 1951. He had assumed the charge of the premier on August 15, 1947. Then the second PM Khawaja Nazimuddin was sent home by Governor General Ghulam Muhammad on April 17, 1953. Nazimuddin knocked the doors of the Supreme Court where Justice Munir had to invent the doctrine of necessity to validate Ghulam Muhammad’s illegal act. Then came Muhammad Ali Bogra who too was dismissed by Ghulam Muhammad in 1954 but later was again appointed as PM but he did not enjoy majority in the Constituent Assembly therefore Governor General Iskender Mirza dismissed his government in 1955. Chaudhary Muhammad Ali succeeded in becoming the PM in 1955 but because of his conflict with Iskender Mirza who had become president as a result of 1956 constitution, Muhammad Ali resigned on September 12, 1956. Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy was the leader of Awami League and led the party through a victory in the 1954 elections for Constituent Assembly. He was the first person from another party than Muslim League to be appointed as a Prime Minister in 1956. He was deposed in 1957, due to differences with Iskander Mirza.
Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar was appointed by Iskander Mirza after the resignation of Suhrawardy. He remained prime minister for almost two months. Chundrigar resigned from the post in December 1957. Then Mirza appointed Feroz Khan Noon as the seventh prime minister of Pakistan. He was dismissed after Martial Law was declared in 1958 by Ayub Khan.
After thirteen years of Martial Law, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto succeeded to power. Bhutto remained President under special arrangement till 1973 Constitution was passed. He resigned as president to become the prime minister of Pakistan after the 1973 Constitution. He went in to elections in 1977 and succeeded but was deposed the same year through coup d’état by General Muhammad Ziaul Haq in July 1977. He was hanged in 1979 by all powerful military-judicial nexus.
In 1985 non-party elections, Muhammad Khan Junejo was elected as PM of Pakistan under the worst dictators of Pakistan. As he was a political breed, he remained a threat to the dictator therefore his government was dismissed on May 29, 1988, just days after Junejo announced to probe the Ojhri Camp incident in Rawalpindi in which military’s weapons depot was exploded killing around 100 people and injuring thousands.
In 2012, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani was convicted in a contempt of court case in Supreme Court for not writing a letter against the sitting president to the Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases. Gilani remained PM of Pakistan from March 25, 2008 to June 19, 2012. The remaining term of PPP government was completed by Raja Pervaiz Ashraf who held the office from June 2012 to March 2013 when general election was held and Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League got sweeping majority in the National Assembly.
Nawaz Sharif is the third Prime Minister who resigned after Panama Leaks scandal
On April 5, 2016, Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsso rerisgned after appearance of his name in Panama Leaks. Gunnlaugsso and his wife had an offshore company. Likewise, Panama Leaks controversy forced Ukrainian Prime Minister to abdicate on April 10, 2016.
On April 15, 2016, Spanish industrial minister resigned as his name was mentioned in the leaks.
Others key names who resigned on moral grounds include Chile Transparency International President Gonzalo Delaveu, FIFA Ethics Committee member Juan Pedro Damiani of Uruguay and ABN AMRO Bank Member of Supervisory Board Bert Meerstadt of Netherlands.
The Panama leaks, comprising 11.5 million documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, shows how some of the world’s most powerful people have secreted their money offshore.
The documents from around 214,000 offshore entities covered almost 40 years.
Among those named in the documents are Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family , friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of the leaders of China, Britain, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.