The wait is over, the Joint Investigation Report (JIT) has been released and as it was predicted, it has drawn a curtain over the Sharif family’s 3-decades long politics.
Though the government has challenged the report in Supreme Court, but political heavyweights and pundits think the Game is Over for Nawaz and Co.
Before we go into the details of the report, let us shed some light on its background to comprehend how everything fell into place.
Nawaz Sharif and The Panama Papers Leak
It all started when International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released 11.5 million documents back in March 2016.
The documents contained detailed financial and attorney-client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities.
Among Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the king of Saudi Arabia, Iceland’s prime minister, the names of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and some of his family members were included in the leaked papers.
The first calamity after the leaks was Iceland’s PM who resigned after being exposed in the Panama Papers. A similar act was expected from Nawaz Sharif, but he rejected the leaks and called it a conspiracy against his government.
To make a long story short, the only (real) opposition party, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) began to campaign against the strongest democratic government in the history of Pakistan.
Other parties kept calm over this issue, but Imran Khan (PTI chief and former cricketer) kept pushing harder. Imran demanded Nawaz’s resignation to ensure a free and fair trial in the Supreme Court.
The top court earlier shied away from taking this case, but later on, when Imran took to the streets for a mass protest, the Army had to intervene to halt potential chaos in the capital and the Supreme Court decided to try Nawaz & Sons.
After 126 hearing for over a year, 1 five-member bench passed its verdict on April 20th, 2017.
Two judges of the five-member apex bench ruled against PM Sharif, saying he should be disqualified as he cannot be considered ‘honest’ and ‘truthful’.
The JIT had representatives from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) who were empowered to question the prime minister and his family members.
The probe team was asked to file its report within 60 days and was given all executive authorities throughout Pakistan.
The JIT worked on weekends, on Eid Days without any break and interviewed 27 witnesses including PM Nawaz, his family, and his brother CM Punjab Shehbaz Sharif. The deadline ended yesterday, July 10th, 2017 and the report was submitted in the apex court.
Highlights of the JIT Report
A thought prevailed that this was another “lollipop” for the masses and that the JIT cannot make an independent inquiry because all the departments were under the influence of government; thus, it was widely expected that this JIT report would only add on to the heap of [junk] files in the Supreme Court store room.
For the icing on the cake, the ruling party declared it their victory and distributed sweets on the streets. Maybe they had already assumed that this JIT investigation would end up like all the other JIT reports that have never been able to prove anything against the Sharif family.
Well, amid all the ambiguity among the masses, the JIT started its proceedings on May 29th, when it interviewed the elder son of Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz.
This was the first time the ruling elite realised this was not like all the previous JITs. This was different. This cannot be compromised; this bunch of six Grande-19 government officers would be hard nuts to crack.
Hussain Nawaz raised questions against two of the JIT members, but the apex court dismissed allegations and refused to remove any member on mere speculations.
With egg on their face, the next move of the PMLN government was to malign JIT members. The government, with the help of a renowned media group, began to cook up stories about the probing team being compromised at the hands of PTI.
When this strategy didn’t work, the government decided to go the extra mile and one of the Senator (Nehal Hashmi) threatened the JIT and the Supreme Court for the worst consequences after retirement.
The Speech and the Repercussions
Here are a few lines from his provocative speech:
“The one you are investigating is the PM’s son, you will not be spared; you are in service now but remember you will retire tomorrow. Those investigating us [must know] we will observe your day of judgment.”
Hashmi also said, “We will reduce the space in this country for your kids and your family.”
Without going into details of what happened to him and how political parties, the media and Supreme Court stood in defence of the JIT, I would only reveal that the scheme FAILED.
It was getting on their nerves now. Almost every minister kept repeating on a daily basis the narrative that the ‘JIT is compromised’.
They left no stone unturned to controversialise the investigation team.
And, as a final move, the top four ministers of the PMLN government called a press conference just 48 hours before the report was to be submitted to the Supreme Court, just to REJECT a report, which was yet to be presented.
I’m sure after reading the bullet points given below, the abnormal behaviour of the government will begin to make sense.
A Summary of the JIT Revelations
- According to the JIT report, the team has found glaring disparities in the family’s known sources of income and their actual wealth which it says the Sharif family was unable to substantiate.
- Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his two sons, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz and daughter Maryam Nawaz have been found owners of offshore companies and undeclared properties. This is a clear violation of Section 9 of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance, 1999.
- The Ruling family has been found guilty of irregular movement of huge amounts in the shape of loans and gifts (money laundering).
“The role of off-shore companies is critically important as several offshore companies […] have been identified to be linked with their businesses in the UK while conducting this investigation. These companies were mainly used for inflow of funds into UK based companies; which not only acquired expensive properties in UK from such funds but also revolve these funds amongst their companies of the UK, KSA, UAE and Pakistan.”
- The investigation further led to the disclosure of Sharif family’s previous irregularities in Hudebia Mills and Chaudhry Mills Cases, tracing back to the ‘90s.
- The Chairman Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) was found guilty of tampering and forging records for the Sharif family, his arrest warrants have also been issued.
- Nawaz Sharif’s cousin brother, Tariq Shafi’s testimony was proved to be fabricated after the UAE’s Ministry of Justice rejected Shafi’s claims.
- It says that the sale of 25pc of the shares of Al Ahli Steel (Gulf Steel Mills) in April 1980 for 12 million dirhams, as claimed by Tariq Shafi, never occurred and no record of its notarisation could be found. This statement had been a core part of the Sharif family’s defence of their sources of wealth.
- Besides that, the Supreme Court also served Geo and Jang Group notices for contempt of court for running fake news about the JIT and for ‘giving verdicts.’ The names of the chairman of National Bank and Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) were also put on the Exit Control List (ECL). It is understood that the two have agreed to be an approver against the government’s ill-doings.
The government’s severe reaction is just a confirmation of whatever the JIT report has asserted. The outcry is just premature because the Supreme Court has yet to pass a judgment on it.
But, the writing on the wall is… The game is over for Nawaz & Co.
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