Maryam Nawaz Sharif, who has been billed as the latest member of the Sharif family to enter mainstream politics, has been accused by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) of submitting “fake/falsified documents to the JIT”, which is a criminal offence.
According to the JIT report, she and her brothers Hussain and Hassan Nawaz, as well as her spouse retired Captain Mohammad Safdar, had signed falsified documents to mislead the Supreme Court.
She is also accused of accumulating “assets disproportionate and beyond means of known sources of income”. But despite this, legal experts believe these developments may not disturb her plan to enter politics, at least for the time being. Prime minister’s daughter also accumulated assets disproportionate to known sources of income, says JIT report
For several months now, speculation has been rife that Maryam would actively participate in the upcoming 2018 general elections. But in April last year, when her name surfaced in the Panama Papers, it seemed as if her path to politics had been blocked.
The JIT’s report does make things difficult for her, saying: “She had been receiving heavy gifts from Rs73.5 million to Rs830.73 million within period of 2009-2016”. The JIT concluded that the “accumulation of Maryam’s assets shows a drastic hike in the early 1990s with no declared source of income”. The Supreme Court has sought objections from all parties in the Panama Papers case within a week, and only when it starts hearing the case from July 17 can the court decide whether to send a reference against her, as well as other members of the Sharif family, to an accountability court.
According to Raja Amir Abbas, a former deputy prosecutor general with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Ms Sharif can contest the elections until the charges against her are proven and she is convicted by the court. Regarding the submission of ‘falsified documents’, Mr Abbas said that since she was not a member of parliament, she was not subject to Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.
He said that since the JIT accused her of accumulating assets disproportionate to her known sources of income, if the apex court sent the matter to NAB, the bureau could file a reference against her in an accountability court instead of re-investigating the matter.
Barrister Mohammad Saeed, a former NAB additional deputy prosecutor general, echoed this point of view. He said that around 70pc of all politicians faced NAB inquiries, investigations and references.
According to him, even a convicted person could contest the elections after filing an appeal against the conviction, or until his/her sentence attains finality from the Supreme Court.
Former Supreme Court Bar Association president Syed Ali Zafar, however, said that in case the Supreme Court confirms the JIT’s allegations regarding the submission of false documents, she may be disqualified from contesting the elections. “In case the apex court refers this matter to NAB, then she could possibly contest the elections,” he added.
In its order of April 20, the apex court had virtually cleared Ms Sharif from the controversy, a fact she recalled when she spoke to the media after testifying before the JIT on July 5.