Friday, July 21, 2017

Pakistan SC reserves ruling in Panama Papers case

Mubashir Zaidi

The date of announcement of verdict has not been given. If convicted, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif can face disqualification from politics.

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Friday reserved the judgment in the Panama Papers case in which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family are accused of amassing assets abroad through offshore companies and concealing the information from tax authorities.

The assets under the microscope are four apartments in Park Lane area of London.

The date of announcement of the verdict has not been given. If convicted, Mr. Sharif can face disqualification from politics. The case has dominated headlines in Pakistan for over a year and most government ministers, including the Prime Minister himself and opposition leaders, are only focussing to speak on this case.

Pakistani Tehrik-i-Insaf of Imran Khan filed a petition in the apex court following the publication of Panama Papers.

In April last, Mr. Sharif narrowly escaped when the Supreme Court, in a 3-2 judgment, ordered an inquiry against him. Two judges in the minority judgment claimed that he was not truthful. A judge even referred to him as a godfather and used strong words like ''Sicilian mafia''.

A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was formed by the judges to ascertain whether the Sharifs used legitimate means to purchase the flats. The JIT concluded last week in a damning report that Mr. Sharif and his children were living beyong their means and submitted forged documents to conceal their assets. Mr. Sharifs' lawyers still deny the allegations.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court took up the JIT findings to decide if Mr. Sharif stands disqualified or should his case be sent to anti-corruption body National Accountability Bureau.

The court, after hearing the arguments of both sides, reserved the verdict. It, however, said that it would address the issue whether Mr. Sharif was being truthful. Mr. Sharif, on the other hand, has been holding public rallies and asking what are the charges against him. "I still don't know what are the charges we are facing. I have not done any corruption or embezzled any funds from the treasury. It seems like a conspiracy," he told a gathering in Upper Dir area on Thursday.

But the Opposition is confident that the Supreme Court will declare the Prime Minister disqualified. Elections are scheduled in Pakistan next year.

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