News Analysis |
As Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen’s disqualification case in the Supreme Court approaches its climax, debate in the national media and drawing rooms alike is centered around comparisons between the legal troubles of the Sharif family and PTI chief Imran Khan.
Yet, as the facts of both cases become clearer day by day, Nawaz’s Panama case and the resulting NAB court proceedings currently underway against him have no bearing on the scrutiny faced by Imran Khan in the Supreme Court.
In late April, PML-N MNA Hanif Abbasi submitted a petition to the Supreme Court accusing Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen for not disclosing assets, owning off-shore companies, and PTI being a foreign-funded party.
So far, according to the comments made by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, Khan has successfully provided the record for the money trail of 94 percent of the funds without changing his position
Abbasi is himself the central figure in the Ephedrine scandal where he has been accused of smuggling 500 kg of the chemical out of the country illegally.
The case against Imran revolves around the purchase of his Bani Gala property for which he had taken a loan from his ex-wife Jemima Goldsmith. Jemima, daughter of British Tycoon James Goldsmith, is heir to a fortune of 100 million pounds and could easily afford to provide Khan with the small loan.
So far, according to the comments made by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, Khan has successfully provided the record for the money trail of 94 percent of the funds without changing his position in the case which shows that there was no mala fide intent. Additionally, Imran Khan’s counsel has argued that the loan was between husband and wife and hence Khan was not bound to report it to any authority as it was a personal matter.
After a basic examination, it becomes clear that the case against Khan has little weight as he was a private citizen when these transactions took place. Couple that with the fact that he has successfully provided the money trail from over a decade ago with records from banks that have since been closed should be enough for any objective observer to conclude that the facts of this case are being misrepresented by some influential segments of the TV and print media.
Whereas disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who was forced out of office after his off-shore holdings were exposed in the Panama Leaks has not been able to come up with a viable defense. During extensive proceedings of the Supreme Court, a detailed investigation by the Panama Joint Investigation Team, and innumerable opportunities to explain the source of their wealth, the only “proof” Nawaz and his family have been able to present is the infamous Qatari letter which was discarded by the Supreme Court.
Lawyers loyal to the PML-N, who are holding government positions bestowed on them by the Sharifs, have on multiple occasions caused ruckus inside and outside the court
The case against Nawaz relates to a complex mechanism of money laundering that only a handful of experts can make sense of.
Off-shore companies like Flagship Investments, Hill Metal Establishment, and several others formed an intricate net of transactions which make no financial sense and make it nigh impossible to ascertain the source of the Sharif fortune which amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.
In the course of the Panama Leaks Case, the JIT tasked with looking into the Sharif’s finances exposed several inconsistencies in the Sharif family version of how they acquired their fortune which include contradictory statements provided by family members; a forged trust deed which showed a backdated transfer of funds between Maryam Nawaz and her brother Hassan; disparity between the assets of the Sharif family and their known sources of income; and loss-making companies which were previously attributed to the creation of the Sharif fortune.
As a result of these findings, the Supreme Court ordered the National Accountability Bureau to file references against the Sharifs and incumbent Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, a central figure in the whole conspiracy.
The Present Situation
There is a very clear divide between the facts and how they are being represented. Watching and reading from mainstream news outlets gives one the impression that both Nawaz and Imran are equals when it comes to the legal troubles faced by them.
The JIT tasked with looking into the Sharif’s finances exposed several contradictory statements provided by family members; a forged trust deed which showed a backdated transfer of funds between Maryam Nawaz and her brother Hassan;
However, there are some analysts who, after objective analysis, have expressed confusion regarding the drawn-out Supreme Court proceedings against Imran Khan for transactions with his wife which date back to when he was a private citizen.
On the other hand, the blatant intimidation which the accountability court handling the Sharif cases was subjected to by PML-N supporters has been largely ignored.
Lawyers loyal to the PML-N, who are holding government positions bestowed on them by the Sharifs, have on multiple occasions caused ruckus inside and outside the court, forcing it to abandon proceedings.
The Supreme Court judge tasked with overseeing the proceedings, the Chief Justice, and all other authorities responsible for upholding the rule of law have so far maintained their silence on this issue.
Also, Nawaz was allowed to be indicted through a stand-in pleader due to his being in London, a facility which has previously never been offered to any individual.
The attempt to hold, arguably, the most powerful family in the country accountable, which has now gone on over a year, is proving to be the ultimate test for the institutional structure of Pakistan.