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Panama Primer

by Jahanzeb Aslam

File Photo. Bertrand Langlois—AFP

The Sharif-led PMLN likely won’t be happy with the Panama Papers judgment—but neither will the opposition.

The Panama Papers scandal has gripped the Pakistani nation for 11 months. Since the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists leaked it in April 2016, it has already downed politicians in Iceland, Spain, Ukraine, among others. Seeing yet another in a long line of failed chances to oust Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan—along with a slew of opposition politicians—immediately seized on the Panama Papers leak as a means to occupy the seat of power he feels he is owed as a former cricketer and hospital fundraiser. He shouldn’t hold his breath.

On Feb. 23, a five-member bench of the Supreme Court reserved its decision in the case, saying there would be no short judgment. Legal experts had already predicted this, noting that the sprawling nature of the case—the PTI notoriously tried to bring in unrelated cases multiple times—would not allow judges to render any quick decision. But despite the PTI hoping (some might even say salivating) over a verdict ousting Sharif from office, it is highly improbable that the official judgment will yield much satisfaction. Of course, this doesn’t mean they’ll leave empty-handed.

The most likely fall guy based on the court’s statements during proceedings and coverage of the trial is National Accountability Board Chairman Major (retd.) Qamar Zaman Chaudhry. The court claims Chaudhry should have filed an appeal against a Lahore High Court verdict quashing a reference against the Sharif family in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case. It cites a weak legal foundation for his refusal to chase the 17-year-old case alleging graft against the PMLN leadership. The PTI has, with yawning predictability, demanded Chaudhry’s resignation. Depending on the court’s final judgment, they just might get it. But senior legal experts have told Newsweek that even if the case is reopened, it is unlikely to have any impact on the Sharif family as evidence is scarce and the allegedly defaulted loans have already been repaid. That is not to say the Sharifs will emerge from this unscathed.

While there is little chance the Supreme Court will oust Nawaz Sharif from office, he will almost certainly be censured. The prime minister never outright lied about his family’s finances, but it is abundantly clear he withheld information during speeches before Parliament and to the entire nation. If the letters from Qatari royal Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani are to be believed, Sharif’s father’s investments in Qatar helped pay for the family’s property in London—which he never disclosed previously. The omission will no doubt prompt the court to demand Parliament investigate further or perhaps even demand an apology from Sharif. But he should be free from disqualification under the archaic (and all-important) Article 62 & 63 of Pakistan’s Constitution, which require office-holders to be sadiq and ameen. He might have a tough year of campaigning ahead, but no seasoned politician will find that too concerning.

Ishaq Dar, whose 2000 ‘confession’ regarding the Sharifs’ alleged money laundering was hailed as a game-changer by some media pundits and even legal experts, will also have little impact on the court’s ruling. The bench has accepted that his ‘confession’ was coerced and as ‘approver’ he cannot be disqualified from office. Even Maryam Nawaz Sharif, whose alleged status as Sharif’s dependent was seen as a smoking gun by many, is unlikely to face any legal action. She has proven in court that she is an independent woman with her own investments and assets that do not hinge on her father’s finances. Her brothers Hussain and Hassan might not fare quite so well but with no apparent political aspirations, they should have no issues weathering the storm.

Regardless of the results, the Panama Papers scandal is reaching its ultimate conclusion. Perhaps now our country, and its lawmakers, can finally focus on the far more pressing problems—a struggling economy, unending militancy, state overreach, to name a few—requiring resolution. Or we can start taking bets on the next dharna; why act when you can distract?

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Zeeshan Hafeez March 19, 2017 - 5:57 pm

There is not a single problem more pressing than currption.

abid khan (@abidkha09900853) March 19, 2017 - 6:03 pm

Dishonest pseudo intellectual working for dishonest political family.

Sharjeel Afzal (@sharjeel_afzal) March 20, 2017 - 12:34 am

Pakistani corrupt Sharif family fully exposed now . court cannot give a clean chit .

Ismail Jan March 20, 2017 - 8:45 am

Bullshit., looks like this post is written by Sharif family representative not by an honest intellectual.

Mansur March 20, 2017 - 11:01 am

Be honest and loyal to your job . Loyality for sharifs shall be shown to them later. Getting perks on these kinds of issues is like betraying your motherland .

Kashif Moten March 20, 2017 - 11:06 am

The media is gradually playing & preparing people for a neutral decision in the #Panama case. The question remains on who’s instructions is this narrative being pushed?

AK March 20, 2017 - 11:43 am

Clearly this is a paid article with a spin. They are trying to shape the opinion of the masses and the tilt towards sharif family is very obvious. The author should have joined the judiciary instead if he is such an expert on legal issues.

Sarfraz Hussain Anjum March 21, 2017 - 4:32 am

The Honorable able court findings all the shades of total case in this way that No one can .Court will also seeing all past vogues of present Government and future goal. any how. (ALLAH KIMLATHI BE-AWAZ HAY.)

Adil March 21, 2017 - 5:21 pm

The writer seems to b a very gud patwari

Dr. Salman Ahmed Tipu March 21, 2017 - 5:57 pm

Either PMLN or SC, one has to be exposed.
It is not easy to exonerate Sharifs, the whole world is watcing.. biasd article


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