On Monday, July 17, the Supreme Court of Pakistan will be examining the JIT report on the Panama Papers case in which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is an accused. Sharif’s political future remains unclear at the moment, as power could be slipping away from him. He and his family have been in a quicksand of corruption charges, all resurrected at once, since the Joint Investigation Team, which includes members from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), delivered a stunning report on July 10, indicting the Sharif family.
The JIT investigation into Panama case, in which the Sharif children were embroiled, had been ordered by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in April to look into the murky offshore dealings of the family. The JIT report rejected Sharifs’ explanations for owning assets that are not explained by their known sources of income and for how they claim to have owned the London apartments.
Sharif’s daughter and his likely political successor, Maryam has been accused by the report of having handed forged, false documents to the investigators. She was caught because of the Calibri font used in the documents which did not become publicly available until well after 2006, the year of which the documents were purportedly dated.
According to Dawn, the JIT report has also recommended reopening of 15 of Sharif’s closed court cases — five cases quashed by the Lahore High Court, eight investigations and two inquiries against him. It noted “that these cases have also been quashed without conducting a proper trial and without giving evidence a chance to come on record”.
The Sharif government on various occasions has declared the JIT report ‘flawed’ and a ‘pack of lies’. Sharif himself has decried it as a targeted witch hunt and vowed to fight it out in the court. His party — the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML – N) — has darkly suggested it to be a move by the opposition and the military to oust the government ahead of the 2018 general elections, which according to reports in the past, Sharif has a decent chance of winning again.
As senior Pakistani journalist and assistant editor of Dawn, Cyril Almeida writes, no Prime Minister in Pakistan has completed a five-year term. Sharif is on his third attempt and less than a year away from the mark.
The pressure on the Sharif family is clearly increasing. They have had a long history of deflecting inquiries about the ownership of the London apartments, which have been widely targeted by the opposition as being gains of corruption. Then the Panama Papers dump in 2016 revealed names of the Sharif children and falsified some of the earlier explanations provided by the family, which triggered an outcry in Pakistan. Simultaneously, the inclusion of military intelligence (ISI) representatives in the Prime Minister’s corruption probe was also highly controversial and bitterly criticized.
The tension between Pakistan’s military and democratic state has been a constant feature of the politics since soon after Pakistan’s inception. Time and again, the former has shown itself to be in charge. In other words, a state running at odds with the military has often had its days numbered. Sharif, whose last government was toppled in 1999 by a military coup, is no stranger to this. Even now, his hold over power is complicated by his government’s increasing tension with the military. According to Almeida, the Pakistani military is heavily at odds, among other things, with Sharif’s advocacy for normalising ties and increasing trade with India.
An earlier version incorrectly stated that no government (instead of no Prime Minister) in Pakistan has completed a five-year term. It has been now rectified.